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Benedict Enwonwu (1921-94)

Tribal Dance 1967-68

RCIN 407672

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A frenzied dance is taking place; numerous figures, some wearing masks, other holding weapons, rhythmically gyrate. The lower half of the composition consists of repeating dark, angular limbs, whilst the upper half includes more sweeping organic lines and brushstrokes.

Benedict Enwonwu is an Igbo Nigerian sculptor and painter. He learned carving from his father and studied Fine Arts at Ibadan and Umuahia Government College from 1934–37. His solo exhibition of 1944 in Lagos resulted in a scholarship from Shell West Africa and the British Council to study fine art in England. Here he studied first at Goldsmiths' College, London, in 1944, and then at Ruskin College, Oxford, 1944-46. He moved to the Slade School of Art, London where he graduated with a first in Sculpture in 1947. He then undertook postgraduate studies in anthropology at the University of London, graduating in 1948.

His work moves between the professional training of Britain and the cultural traditions of West Africa. Art scholar Emily Robson has described his style as 'African modernist'. His work, she states 'offers a blend of various styles, elements of traditional West African masks into simplified body emphasis on the face, but also toned-down expression from Europe.'

The original title of this work is ‘Crucified Gods Galore’ and it belongs to a group of works, produced throughout Enwonwu’s career, with the same title. An almost identical work was exhibited at Joburg Art Fair, March 2008, by Stevenson, Graham-Stewart and Borman.