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5 Books That Will Broaden Your Understanding of Nigerian Art

When it comes to Nigerian art and heritage, many scholars have taken it up their sleeves to research and document the ancient annals of the country in various book formats, some of which are as expansive as tomes.

As time passes, everything within its sphere of influence is impacted, with some things emerging while others fade away into oblivion. However, one thing that has remained unaltered throughout all these evolutionary changes is the historical record of various archaeological and genealogical data compiled and preserved into manuscripts. This article enlists five of these books that will broaden your understanding and knowledge of Nigerian art.


  1. Nigerian Arts Revisited | Nigel Barley

Nigerian Arts Revisited provides an in-depth exploration of the extensive Nigerian art collection housed at the Barbier-Mueller Museum. The author Barley, once curator at the British Museum, was invited to examine this collection that has been amassed over more than a century.

The book covers a diverse range of Nigerian artistic traditions, including archaeological pieces from Nok, Katsina, and Sokoto, as well as works from the infamous cultural centres of Ife and Benin, and the cultural art expressions of the Yoruba, Ijo, Igbo, and other groups. Through this catalogue, Barley aims to offer new perspectives and a deeper appreciation for the aesthetic quality and ethnographic significance of this impressive collection of Nigerian art.


2. Nigerian Artistry | Pat Oyelola

Nigerian Artistry by Pat Oyelola is a comprehensive 300-page survey book that covers a wide range of Nigerian art forms, including textiles, beadwork, pottery, sculpture, and the influence of these traditions on contemporary Nigerian artists. The author, Dr. Pat Oyelola, is a respected expert on Nigerian art who brings a local perspective informed by her decades of experience studying and participating in these artistic practices. The book relinquishes an extensive overview of Nigeria's rich artistic heritage, from body adornment to woodcarving, drawing on the author's deep knowledge and firsthand insights.


3. Postcolonial Modernism | Chika Okeke-Agulu 

In "Postcolonial Modernism," one of the foremost scholars of African art, Chika Okeke-Agulu pens a historical chronicle of the emergence and evolution of artistic modernism in Nigeria during the period leading up to the country's independence in 1960 and the onset of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967.

The book trails the artistic, intellectual, and critical networks that developed in various Nigerian cities during this pivotal period, with a specific emphasis on the significant role played by the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology in Zaria. The book features 129 colour images and elucidates valuable insights into the interplay between art, politics, and decolonization in twentieth-century Nigeria.


4. Artists of Nigeria | Onyema Offoedu-Okeke

Artists of Nigeria is a richly illustrated, comprehensive survey that provides an insightful overview of modern and contemporary Nigerian art from 1900 to the present day. Covering the work of over one hundred Nigerian artists, the book examines the evolution of various artistic movements, styles, and media while analyzing the influential role of different art systems and contexts on the development of Nigeria's opus and transitional art scene over the past century. Engaging readers with an in-depth exploration, this authoritative volume plays into the myriads of artistic productions that have helped shape the story of modern and contemporary Nigerian art.


5. Art Of Nigeria– 511 Tribes Explored | Peter de Jeu

The Art of Nigeria, encompassing both known and obscure tribes, is a comprehensive five-volume compendium that dilates the various artistic legacies of 511 Nigerian tribes, many previously undocumented. This monumental work, representing eight years of committed production and five decades of sourcing authentic imagery, is the culmination of a lifetime of dedicated research and travel by art expert Peter de Jeu. The phenomenal collection showcases a breathtaking array of wood, bronze, and ivory works, ranging from ancient bronzes and ivories dating back over 2,500 years to impressive wooden sculptures by acclaimed and anonymous carvers.


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5 Books That Will Broaden Your Understanding of Nigerian Art

May 22, 2024

Fredrick Favour

3 min read

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