Ben Enwonwu

  • Born 1917 in Onitsha, Nigeria
  • Died 1994 in Lagos, Nigeria
Ben Enwonwu studied at Government College in Ibadan and Umuahia from 1934 to 1939. From 1941 to 1944 he taught at Edo College in Benin City and trained as an apprentice in the guild of Benin bronze casters. His early artistic success earned him a study abroad scholarship in 1944. Within the year he moved to London, where he received a fine arts diploma from the Slade School in 1947 and a Master’s degree in anthropology from University College London in 1948. Enwonwu emerged as a successful figurative painter and sculptor in wood and bronze, representing an African modernist style which combined traditional elements with a classical Western training. In 1946 Enwonwu participated in the Exposition Internationale (International Exhibition) at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris. In 1954 he became the youngest member of the Order of the British Empire in the Commonwealth. He was Cultural Advisor to the Federal Government of Nigeria from 1968 to 1971. In 1971 he became the first professor of fine art in Nigeria at the University of Ife-Ife (retiring in 1975) and a visiting artist at Howard University, Washington, DC.

Artworks by Ben Enwonwu in the exhibition