Uzo Egonu’s work is powerful and easy to admire but also challenging to place within the usual contexts of art criticism: the social, historical, geographic and cultural. That his art is both accessible and representative, although it was created while he was often detached either literally or figuratively from the peoples, places and events he depicted—this unique combination of qualities, and how to explain their co-existence—should make Egonu an especially attractive subject for teachers and researchers.
Egonu spent most of his life as an outsider, both culturally (living and working in England, far from his native Nigeria) and as an artist, experimenting with contemporary styles but never solely defined by them and hardly recognized within the ranks of Modernism or Post-Modernism. In particular, his oeuvre raises questions about the intrinsic and the influential (i.e., the nature versus the “nurturing” of an artist); and embodies a distinct sensitivity for the human experience of separation and isolation as well as connection. Egonu’s work is an excellent source for exploring a wide range of topics and concepts including Yoruba culture, the Nigerian Civil War, Postcolonialism, gender roles, metaphor, and Western reception, interpretation and consumption of African art in the twentieth century.
Jessica Bailey (2010)
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