Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nwanne’s creative oeuvres as social commentaries.

By Okechukwu Nwafor

Jimmy Nwanne’s works are eloquent testimonies to the crises that have befallen the entire human race. While his Diaspora sojourn may have promised a better living condition in far away Germany, his preoccupation with likely socio-economic issues in Nigeria is revealing of his passion to become a willing participant in a world torn apart by economic exploitation, political oppression and cultural degradation.  

The works, “Behind these walls” and “Lady with the veil” rendered in a somewhat realistic manner, make multiple statements about the world’s current threat. Whether they make remote allusion to the Middle East political crisis or a direct reference to the current threat posed by Boko Haram in the North East of Nigeria, Nwanne’s homeland, one can suggest that Nwanne has reconstructed the idea of ‘veils’ into a political battle for survival. While the works can serve as metaphors for an explicit critique of religion in a nation beleaguered by the tragedy of fundamentalism, the veiling could also suggest the silencing of dehumanised victims, whose narratives offer us an opportunity to revisit other dimensions of violence against women.  In these works, Nwanne seems to romanticise marginal life through a deft overlay of sombre colours, misty eyes and an aura of mystique around each physiognomic gaze. In both paintings the faces are broken into geometric shapes of colour, punctuated by interplay of silhouetted imageries built into the vertical veils.  Both the faces and the veils offer unending perspectives to a world of seemingly uneven topography; a battered landscape that defines our everydayness.

In the ‘Nation building Series’ Nwanne seems to accentuate the institutional constraints to thriving in Nigeria. He underscores the necessary ingredients needed to articulate new kinds of orientations towards nation building. These orientations suggest that nation building embodies two fundamental organs: the child and education. The pernicious effect of lack, of poverty, of deprivation can be substantially alleviated through proper investment in educating the child. If as the paradox goes that the child is father to the man, then Nwanne’s propositions are not merely idealizations but surely intend to resolve possible dangers of social and economic insecurity which an uneducated child may pose in the future. In ‘Nation Building II and III’, patches of colours progress in blocks of dark and bright hues around the entire figure. However, while the pencils and papers are highlighted, other figural elements are diminished. This may be for strategic reasons. On the other hand, the traditional ideal of classical beauty represented by the child figure points out the successful modernity of Nwanne’s style: strong extravagant colours signal Nwanne’s break with the radical conceptualism of the twenty first century. These works are strongly evocative of the emotional reality Nwanne has always been truthful to right from his student days at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. Nwanne never shed his cultural specificity, despite the overarching influence of politics of difference in the West where he has been living and working. Not interested to transcend the questions posed by ‘Diaspora belongingness’ Nwanne pictured home as a constant site of return. He saw ‘home’ as a place where his creativity would make loud statements of sincerity and peace.

Perhaps, for Nwanne, the thought of home must have inspired the work “to the promise land’ where he seems to make audacious attempt to preserve his agency and increase the scope of his freedom. This work is very successful in the manner in which balance and harmony are blended into a cool ambience of movement. If Nwanne desired home so much as to return to Nigeria to show his new works, then time has come, according to West (1994:22), “for artists of the new cultural politics of difference to cast their nets widely, flex their muscles broadly, and thereby refuse to limit their visions, analyses, and praxis to their particular terrains. The aim is to dare to recast, redefine, and revise the very notions of... the mainstream”. Perhaps, Nwanne has revised this notion of ‘the mainstream’ to arrive at ‘the periphery’ thus reaching a new stage in his constant search for freedom. This freedom enabled Nwanne to return to Nigeria and open his creative vista to his own people. 


Cornel West (1994). “The New Cultural Politics of Difference” in Maurice Berger, Modern Art and Society, An Anthology of Social and Multicultural Readings. New York: IconEditions.

Okechukwu Nwafor holds a PhD in Visual History from the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. He was a former Research Associate in the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), University of Minnesota, USA. He is currently the Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. Email:

Behind these wall. Oil on canvas.

 Against All Odds. Oil on Canvas.

 Lady with veil. Oil on Canvas

Nation Building II. Oil on canvas.

To the promise land. Oil on canvas.

Despair. Oil on canvas.

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