Ode to a master, turned 60: Peter Ezeh on Chike Aniakor, the Nigerian master of the uli visual art genre.

Author:Ezeh, Peter
Position:Nigeria: Appreciation - Brief Article

If a notable pioneer attains the age of 60, ordinarily the occasion is something to celebrate. But Dr Chike Aniakor of the University of Nigeria, Nzukka, the moderniser of the much-discussed uli visual art genre, sees life differently. He clinks no glasses, holds no parties and you have to have the skill of a drummer to be able to sell the idea of giving a press interview to him.

He tells reporters: "I shouldn't be talking about myself. I should be studied."

But here is the man from whose path-finding efforts, and those of another past master, Prof Uche Okeke, such contemporary greats in African visual art as Prof El Anatsui (also of the University of Nigeria), Prof Obiora Udechukwu of St Lawrence University, USA, and the generations of painters, graphic artists and sculptors since the 1970s, took their cue.

Born 60 years ago in Oze, an Igbo-speaking rural community, to a farming father and a mother who combined singing and trading, Aniakor believes that he took his talents from his mother. The old lady's father was a virtuoso on the Igbo traditional flute, the oja.

None of young Chike's teachers during his lower level education will be surprised at his eventual attainments in the arts. He was something of a prodigy. Way back, in his fourth year at elementary school, he wowed one of his teachers by drawing an exact replica of him. Another nicknamed him Francis Bacon on account of his flair for essay writing. He still finds time to write poems even now.

However, by the time...

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