It is important to note that the artistic culture in Africa that informed and inspired the Modern movements in Europe are not extinct.
Although now an American citizen and living in his newly adopted country’s capital, the Nigerian born artist Victor Ekpuk still calls on his African roots for the production of his art.
As he told the Seeds and Fruit blog “Though my limited knowledge of nsibidi signs today is from memory of observations and documented anthropological archives, what I understand has immensely inspired the direction my work has taken for the past two decades that I have been a professional visual artist. My contact with nsibidi has inspired me to use the essence of this ancient art form to express my contemporary experience.”
For Ekpuk making art with an emphasis on drawing has been his lifelong passion. As he has said “As far back as I can remember, I could draw good resemblances of objects and people before I learned how to write. I would say that my mother was the first nurturer of my artistic gift. At a very young age, she encouraged me to enter competitions. So strong was my love for art that I could not think of anything else I’d rather study in college, and my parents did not dissuade me from this path.”
The inclusion of the nsibidi symbols into his work also has a personal connection. As he says “Nsibidi is an ancient form of writing that uses symbols to represent concepts. It is practiced in Nigeria and West Africa and it is still in use today actually. So when I started looking for form to express my conceptual ideas I started doing research into traditional African art and aesthetics and that really attracted me. It’s also from the part of the country that I’m from. My forefathers were doing this so that made it kind of personal to me.”
With residencies in Santa Fe and Amsterdam and most recently at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art Ekpuk produces work that reflects his socio-political experiences of the world. As he explained to TSV’s Liz Georges ““I like to go through the whole spectrum of human condition, social, political. There was a time when I was living in Nigeria when my work was very political because I was living under a very politically tense atmosphere, we had a dictatorship for a very long time. So having lived here for some time, a lot of my American experience is coming into my work as well, social commentaries. And sometimes if the politics get too heavy I just like to explore the aesthetics of form. I like doing that as well.”
Ekpuk’s current exhibition Auto-Graphics which includes a wall drawing he made during its first week is on show at the Hood Museum of Art until the 2nd of August.