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Ben Enwonwu MBE

Born, 1917 - 1925 (probably 1921) in Onitsha, Nigeria. Died, 1994

Important pioneering Nigerian artist, Ben (Benedict Chukwukadibia) Enwonwu (1917 or 1921 – 1994), has been described as, “One of the most well-known African artists to have trained and exhibited in Britain during the period between the wars, Born, [like another important Nigerian artist, Uzo Egonu] in Onitsha, Nigeria, Enwonwu studied at Goldsmiths, Ruskin College at Oxford and the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London before returning to Nigeria and embarking on an international career in art.” [Courtney J. Martin, “Surely, There Was a Flow: African-British Artists in the Twentieth Century”, Flow, the Studio Museum in Harlem (exh cat) 2 April – 29 June 2008: 65]

Some sources, including catalogues, have his year of birth as 1917, others have it as 1921.

From the catalogue Commonwealth Artists of Fame 1952 - 1977 (Commonwealth Art Gallery, London, 1 June - 3 July 1977):

“Born in Onitsha, Nigeria, the son of a sculptor. While still at school he was awarded a special scholarship to study art under Kenneth Murray, at that time in charge of art education in the Colonial Civil Service. In 1938 his work was included in the Glasgow Empire Exhibition. After the war, and some teaching experience in secondary schools, Enwonwu came to Britain on a Shell Petroleum Company scholarship to study at Goldsmiths College and Slade School of Fine Art where he was awarded first class honours. Now invited to participate in important exhibitions, in 1948 he began his studies of social anthropology at Unversity College, London and he became a fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute. He has received numerous important, public commissions including a portrait in bronze of the Queen (1956-57). In 1950 and 1968 he toured the United States of America, lecturing at universities; Fellow of Lagos University, 1966; Cultural Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria, 1968; D Litt, 1969: at present Professor of Fine Art, University of Ife. Awarded MBE 1954.”

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London, United Kingdom