Putting Nsibidi on the global stage
He is undoubtedly one of the best artists out of Nigeria and African right now. His works dot the landscape in the United States, Europe and the Middle East where his iconic work, The Face, is the tallest artwork in Bahrain. His works are also on the covers of newly republished Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People and other Chinua Achebe literary works.
Grab a copy of any of these works and you will see glyphic Nsibidi signatures intricately and masterfully etched on the book covers. These etchings have so caught the attention of the international art world that you would find them boldly impressed in works displayed at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art (NMAFA), and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American Culture & History (NMAACH); Elizabeth Miller Sculpture Center, Kansas, The World Bank, the Newark Museum, Hood Museum, Krannert Art Museum, all in the United States; the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India; and Bank ABC International Headquarter, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain.
These are the works of Victor Ekpuk, an Akwa Ibom State indigene who uses Nsibidi art to explore human conditions drawing upon a wide spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses. In 21019, his installation, “Shrine to Wisdom,” was a standout at the landmark exhibition, “Get Up, Stand Up Now — Generations of Black Creative Pioneers,” at Somerest House, London featuring 100 African diasporan artists.
A 1989 graduate of Fine Art from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ekpuk started out as an illustrator with Daily Times. Today, he is counted among Africa’s most prolific artists. Ekpuk has been commissioned by museums and gallery across the world: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art to design trophies awarded to recipients of the museum’s first African Art Awards. In 2017, he completed a large-scale 30ft x 18ft. centerpiece mural at the North Carolina Museum of Art. A commissioned 58ft mural “Essence of Memphis” currently at the Memphis Brooks Museum was a site of a scene in Brian Banks the latest movie by Tom Shaydiac. In 2019, he completed a 20 ft metal sculpture “Hope and Dream Under Glory” commissioned by City of Washington District of Columbia at Boone Elementary School in SE Washington DC.
In 2019, he installed The Face, a 17 feet landmark sculpture commissioned by Bank ABC (Arab Bank Corporation) at its world headquarters in The Kingdom of Bahrain. At the commissioning, Ekpuk said, “How do you capture the essence of a people whose history is long and culture layered in centuries of civilizations? You look to their beautiful faces hoping to catch the essence of their memory.”
He is currently commissioned by Penguin Random House Publishers to illustrate new covers of popular books by Africa’s most renowned author, Chinua Achebe.
Here’s to Victor, one of the greatest art exports from Nigeria.