Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya (born 1932) is one of Nigeria’s most prestigious artistic pioneers. He grew up in Delta State, Nigeria and in 1962 he obtained a Diploma in Fine Arts and an Arts Teacher’s Certificate from Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (now called Ahmadu Bello University) in Zaria. It was at Zaria that he met a group of other aspiring Nigerian artists that would forge the way for a powerful movement in Nigerian art. The group of young men, who dubbed “Zaria Rebels,” by Professor Kojo Fosu, included Professor Uche Okeke, Yusuf Grillo, Demas Nwoko and other students. In Professor Onobrakpeya’s own words they “weren’t rebelling against anything as such but… thought that the idea of just using the western art technique without relating it to our culture wasn’t right.”
He broke away from training in the Western tradition of representational art and began to experiment with forms that relate to Nigerian folklore.
This emphasis on experimentation and cultural authenticity has characterised his long and prolific career. A career that has seen him exhibit at the Tate Modern in London, the National Museum of African Art of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., The Malmö Konsthall in Malmö, Sweden and The National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos, to name a few.
He has worked in paint, print, etching and engraving; creating his own techniques along the way.