"My painting ideas are carried over months in the antipodes of the mind, undergoing creative mutation, occasionally surfacing to be synthesized--just in the way a goat sits under the shade to chew its cud. These ideas mature with time like the sprouts of yam seedlings. It is during this period that I feel like the traditional carver who says that to 'carve a mask you must be the mask.'"

photograph by Simon Ottenberg

Chike Aniakor

Born in 1939 at Abatete, Igbo country, Chike Aniakor received his initial training in art at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where he finished shortly after Uche Okeke. Aniakor received his master's (1974) and doctorate (1978) degrees in art history from Indiana University, submitting a thoughtful dissertation on Igbo architecture. Since 1970 he has taught art and art history at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A highly respected scholar of Igbo and African art history, Aniakor and Herbert M. Cole wrote the definitive study Igbo Arts: Community and Cosmos (1984). He has recently been a fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Much of Aniakor's art, particularly in ink and watercolor, displays strong linear qualities based upon uli, and he maintains that his interest in this design system developed separately from that of Uche Okeke. His human figures, often possessing elongated bodies and limbs, are frequently massed together in a work, and he makes skillful use of negative space. Previously he worked in oil to depict scenes of Igbo rituals, refugees from the Biafran conflict, and Igbo dancers, minstrels, and other figures.

In recent years Aniakor has become increasingly concerned with social conditions in Nigeria. In artworks created in pen, ink, and wash, or sometimes watercolor, he ponders the country's domination by its leaders and the plight of everyday Nigerians. One symbol of leadership he repeatedly employs is the eagle hovering ominously over a group of people.

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