Crucified Gods Galore By Ben Enwonwu (1967-8)

Ogolo By Ben Enwonwu 1989

Ben Enwonwu’s paintings, sculptures, and drawings became metaphors of identity, encapsulating his personal and ancestral selves in ways that turned that history into art. His art was a fusion and reflection of his multiple identities constructed in response to different political, social, cultural, and economic circumstances: (Nzegwu, Nkiru 2000)

Abstracting Figures

Abstract Figures By Ben Enwonnwu (1958)

Africa dances, Eve noir By Ben Enwonwu (1972)

African Dances By Ben Enwonwu (1973)

Ututu By Ben Enwonwu (1970)

Chiekwe & Caro By Ben Enwonwu (1971)

Eti Ocha Dances By Ben Enwonwu (1975)

His love of music notwithstanding, Enwonwu’s overriding concern remained how to capture the spirit/form of the dance without sacrificing content. Having discovered that rhythm and movement are crucial elements in customary life, his paintings, many of which are largely representational, explored the dynamics of motion coursing through the human muscles. ( Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World; 1, 2. []

Figures on a Forest Road By Ben Enwonwu (1943)

Fisher men By Ben Enwonwu

Ogbanje The Ghosts of Tradition By Ben Enmonwu (1976)

Ogbanje: The Ghosts of Tradition is a painting about reincarnation that draws from the life of a little girl that once lived in the Enwonwu’s mother’s household.

Obitan I By Ben Enwonwu

Using clean curving lines he captured this melodic fluidity in the lead female dancer of Obitan I. The criss-crossing, interpenetrating lines that one finds in Obitan I amplify the vibrancy of the work and weave together the many disparate parts.


Dance Form

The Black man was performing in order to free himself from the ties of foreign domination. So his art came out forcefully in a…vein…that expresses a particular feeling of yearning for freedom. If we painted any picture it was about this freedom. (Nzegwu, Nkiru (2000). BEN ENWONWU: ART FROM A SIXTY-YEAR CAREER – A RETROSPECTIVE. Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World; 1, 2. [].)

Fulani Girl of Rupp By Ben Enwonwu (1949)

Negritude Ben Enwonwu (1957)

“Negritude was an expression of Blackness, a celebration of the Black image. It was a great source of artistic wealth that Senghor, who had so much in him of poetry, personified. We, the artists, more or less drank from the fruits of his knowledge. I went to my home at Onitsha and began to use some of the traditional dances — particularly the dance movements and the colors — as a basis for representation.”

— Ben Enwonwu 1989

“The essence of my own Negritude was particularly characterized in the movement of dancing figures, (African Dances [1952], Maiden Dances [1954] Kano Dance [1958]), in the movement of Agbogho mmuo (1951/52, 1978), in the beauty of Black women. My Negritude is shown in Black forms because at that time in London, Black beauty was an essential and recognized image of the movement.”

–Ben Enwonwu 1989

Storm over Biafra By Ben Enwonwu (1972)

This landscape is a departure for him, both in its subject matter and dark mood. The stormy skies and scattered cattle bones refer to the widespread death and destruction that occurred during Biafra’s war of secession from Nigeria in the late 1960s. Originally from the Biafra region, Enwonwu here expressed his personal sense of loss over his ravaged homeland. Signed by Oliver A. Enwonwu (son)

Purapakal By Ben Enwonwu (1973)

Ogolo in Motion By Ben Enwonwu (1989-90)

“I have focused on the Ogolo masked form that is closely related to the Agbogo mmuo and Ayolugbe mask that is traditional in Nigeria. It is part of my recent important works– comprising Adonis [1989], Ogolo Metamorphosis (1991), Ogolo (1989), Ogolo in Motion (1989), Nne Mmuo (1987) Ogolo Emerging (1989)–that have a steady flow of thought and development.”

— Ben Enwonwu


Ogolo Metamorphosis By Ben Enwonwu (1991)

Ogolo 2 By Ben Enwonwu (1994)

Ogolo3 By Ben Enwonwu

Otu Odu By Ben Enwonwu

“The spiritual realm of African art, the hierarchy of the gods, the psychic significance and the veneration, the way we can carve images in order to express our hopes and personify our desires in terms of sculpture, the mystical awareness of the carver, the spiritual world of the trees and animals, and the belief in the existence of a soul in inanimate objects-I have experienced it all” (rpt 1987, 73).

— Ben Enwonwu


Blue Boy By Ben Enwonwu (1959)

Girl with Blue Headscarf By Ben Enwonwu (1953)

Portrait of Ben Enwonwu's Driver (1968)


All Art work are taken from [] by Nzegwu, Nkiru (2000). BEN ENWONWU: ART FROM A SIXTY-YEAR CAREER – A RETROSPECTIVE. Ijele: Art eJournal of the African World; 1, 2.
Ben Enwonwu was married twice and had nine children, four sons and five daughters. He died quietly in his sleep on February 4th, 1994 at his home in Lagos. Ben Enwonwu will be remembered as one of the most prominent African Artist whose work inspire younger Artist and who help create an international visibility of African Art in all media, wood bronze and painting.