by Mario Pissarra
[Note: This was first published as “Art and the nation?” in Art South Africa 11(3): 52]
Uche Okeke is widely regarded as a pivotal figure in modern Nigerian art. This accolade stems in large part from his leading role in the Zaria Art Society, an association of students formed in the years preceding political independence from Britain, who challenged the eurocentrism of the art curriculum taught at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science & Technology. In particular, Okeke’s formulation of the notion of Natural Synthesis is frequently taken as a foundational moment in the orientation of modern Nigerian art, one that would find full fruition after his teaching appointment at the University of Nsukka in 1970.