Polo Lifestyles April 2019: Kia Ora, New Zealand

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Pride & Legacy

Raphael Dapaah | Art Contributor raphaeldapaah@hotmail.co.uk

In recent years, there has been growing talk about an African renaissance on the horizon. Indeed, the ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric espoused enthusiastically by The Economist, CNN, and Forbes Africa, appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, with a great surge in demand for everything African: from music to tourism and, of course, the arts. In the spirit of renaissance, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Nigeria’s very own modern-day Leonardo Da Vinci. I don’t make this comparison lightly; Oliver Azubuike Enwonwu is very much the archetypal renaissance man and polymath. An eclectic academic who holds a degree in biochemistry, a post-graduate diploma

in applied geophysics, and a masters in art history, Mr. Enwonwu is also a fine artist, gallerist, curator, art historian, art administrator, publisher and a brand strategist. With a penchant for sharp suits, too, it would be remiss of me not to also mention his vocation as a dandy and full-time gentleman. I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to engage Mr. Enwonwu’s brilliant mind, and as you can imagine, keen to learn more about his journey in becoming undeniably one of the African continent’s most gifted artists. “I have a strong artistic background as a third generation artist,” he begins. “My grandfather, Emeka Enwonwu, was a traditional sculptor of great repute who bore the honorific title of ‘Omenka’, reserved only for the most gifted. Despite the fact that while I was studying biochemistry at the University of Lagos and selling my works to important collectors in Lagos — even holding major

exhibitions in Lagos at the Alliance Française and the now defunct Iola Gallery — I did not fully realize I wanted to become an artist. It was, however, when I joined the Lagos Chapter of the Society of Nigerian Artists in 2008 that I felt the urgent need to contribute my all to uplifting her members, the association and consequently the art profession in Nigeria.” What I found amazing about the artist, was not only his desire to dedicate himself to his art, but to also promote his fellow Nigerian artists. The determined advocacy of his culture and heritage can be evidenced greatly in his stunning figurative portraits, all of which radiate pride and captivating sensual beauty. I wondered what Nigeria, and by extension, Africa, mean and represent to the artist. “Africa represents many things to me. It represents a land of great opportunity, one blessed with many mineral

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