Christopher (Chris) Afuba

Article Bio Works Merits Projects Images
additional name:
Nwankwo, Chinedu, Patrick
crossroads:
anxiety, beauty, birth, conflict, ecology, peace
genre(subgenre):
Design and Crafts (carving)
Visual Arts (drawing, environmental art, installation art, mural painting, painting, portrait, printmaking, sculpture)
region:
Africa, Western
country/territory:
Nigeria
city:
Nimo
created on:
June 13, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since September 30, 2004. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:
Christopher (Chris) Afuba
Chris Afuba

Article

Malleability, strength and grain

Chris Afuba is a sculptor who worked as a self-taught artist for seven years following the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970 before deciding to undertake formal training. Concentrating his skills on wood-carving at the beginning of his career, he produced ornaments and jewellery but his practice now incorporates sculpture, drawing, installation art, painting (including murals), portraits, printmaking and craft.
"Quite early in life I fell in love with clay for modelling because of its malleability. At the same time, the strength and rich grains of various woods captivated me. Because I was ill equipped to make my clay pieces durable by firing it had been a discouraging experience. But my romance with wood has been rewarding. With little or no suitable tools I attacked wood. I remember vividly how I carved a school shield with a penknife. During the Nigerian Civil war I carved with whatever tools I could fashion for myself until I developed the art of ornamentation with wood immediately after the war in 1970."

Chris Afuba is a sculptor who worked as a self-taught artist for seven years following the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970 before deciding to undertake formal training. Concentrating his skills on wood-carving at the beginning of his career, he produced ornaments and jewellery but his practice now incorporates sculpture, drawing, installation art, painting (including murals), portraits, printmaking and craft.

Only three years into his practice, in 1973, Afuba received his first sculpture commission for which he created a Madonna and Child in Enugu. Later that year he also participated in a major group exhibition with a cluster of artists known as the ´Mbari Artists´ at the British Council in Enugu, Nigeria.

It was not, however, until 1977 that he decided to enrol as an art student at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Nigeria. In 1971 he had been introduced to contemporary art as a private student of Uche Okeke, now a professor of art, and had long wished to train formally. Despite his practical experience, he hoped that training might enlarge his world-view of art. "Although I have a preconceived idea about my role as an artist, particularly sculpture, and the statements I struggle to make" he says, "my encounter with academics has widened my field of vision."

Granted free rein by his teachers to pursue his own artistic interests, Afuba flourished at the institute. He specialised in sculpture winning two awards, ´The Best Overall Graduand´ and ´The Best Student of the Year´ (1980/81). He explains his success: "My approach was not that of a student learning art but as an artist striving to improve his skill in a school environment."

He launched himself into the midst of his trade, receiving a second major commission in 1978 to create a larger than life-size fountain from cement, two life-size pieces, a woodcarving and a mosaic piece as well as a number of other small pieces in painting, metal and ceramics.

Apart from working to explore forms and shapes in wood, Afuba is fascinated by the tactile quality of wood occasioned by skilful tool marks. These interests inform his three basic targets whenever he carves wood: "One is the subjective concept I seek to realise, in terms of its expressive values. The second is the successful execution of its form and shape and the third is its tactile quality as expressed by the variety of textures occasioned by very rich tool marks."

His is an artistic language that injects new vigor into traditional forms and motifs that are African generally but Igbo (the ethnic group to which he belongs), specifically. ´Sometimes it is a synthesis of the old and the present, to create the new,´ he says, drawing on the example of his use of the Igbo element ´Uli´: "Because Uli is essentially geometric but organic in a unique way, it blends beautifully with both traditional and contemporary concepts."

Afuba´s practice is also informed by his personal responses to life. He explains, "My feelings or emotions play a good part on how my experiences are expressed visually. It has to do with how I react with events that affect my life, whether joyful or sorrowful. Works like ´Weakness´, ´Victory´, ´Tangled: The Dirge of Depleted Woods´ came from within. They were the results of my reaction to my inner feelings about my experiences - my philosophical view of life."

Other inspirations come from his contemporary society, and its struggles. "The Nigerian civil war influenced me a great deal," he says, pointing to works such as ´Blockade´, ´Osondu´ (Refugees) and ´After the War´. Other works such as ´Man Against Man´, ´Bush Fire´, ´Greenhouse Wahala´, ´Dirge of the Broken Wood´, ´Dirge of a Rare Bird: From Migration to Extinction´ also "protest against environmental abuse by war, industrialisation and urbanisation".

Afuba works also reflect aspects of African culture, including religion, whether African or Christian, traditional costume and fashion or, as he says, the "simple day-to-day life of my people, which is rich in aesthetic value". His current project, for example, is developing a model traditional Igbo household for a contemporary society by integrating modern conveniences in traditional Igbo architecture. Another aspect of the project deals with the introduction of traditional Igbo mural painting into modern buildings.

"The main idea of my work," Afuba says, "is the poetic and philosophical interpretation of life. I look always at the duality of human situation: the beautiful and the ugly. When I talk of the beautiful I think of everything beautiful in life, whether romantic or solemn. Works like ´The New Moon: Synthesis of a Love Dream´, ´Rock: Feel like I do´, ´Rhythm of Land and Sea´ are concrete examples. The ugly sides - I try to portray in a poetic manner as social commentaries. That is the main thrust of my works and that is how I seek to contribute to the uplifting of the global society."

Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts

Bio

Chris Afuba is a sculptor based in Nigeria. He began working as a self-employed artist in 1970 after the Nigerian civil war. Although he was already participating in exhibitions and receiving commissions, he decided in 1977 to undertake formal training at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Nigeria, where he currently teaches sculpture, life drawing, craft/art and environment. He is also the National Coordinator of Global Culture Center.

He has had six solo exhibitions in Nigeria and Britain and has participated in many group shows in Nigeria, as well as in Germany and Switzerland. He has also contributed to local and international conferences and workshops in Nigeria and England. His other interests include poetry and folktales.

Works

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

Exhibition / Installation,
2003
2001 ‘Lyrics of my Land’, exhibition of drawings, Cheshire, England. 2000 ‘Dialogue: Conversation Between Wood and Metal’, Lagos, Nigeria. 1992 ‘Tangled: Dirge of Depleted Woods’, exhibition, protesting against enviromental abuse, Lagos, Nigeria.

SIGNIFICANT WORKS

Object,
2003
2000, ‘ Internet’: wood and metal rods: a statement on global communication. 1992 ‘After the War’, wood and metal sculpture: a work that makes concrete the ugliness of war. 1981 ‘Otigba’ (Drummer), cement sculpture, reinforced piece portraying strength, drama and perfection.

Merits

´Best Overall Graduand of the Year´ awarded by the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu during graduation.
1981 ´Best Student of the Year Award, awarded by IMT in recognition of excellent result.

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Braziers Workshop 2002

(11 August 02 - 27 August 02)
images
The Holy Family
Ijele (The King of Masquerades)
Dike (The Hero)
Goliath (Fallen Warrior)
Skeletal Services 4