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In most Nigerian forums, to speak in metaphoric language is a mark of wisdom, maturity and literacy. The visual arts is no exception to this rule. Hence the seeming proliferation of non-predictable images in traditional arts. Modern Nigerian artists have sustained this tradition well.

Dance is thus a metaphor for beauty in the hands of knowledgeable artists in today’s Nigeria. In the 1950s, dance as metaphor of beauty featured in paintings and drawings of the great pioneer contemporist, Ben Ewonwu. His famous dance subjects were used to serialise the themes African Dances, Negritude or Black is Beautiful. In these paintings, the curvaceous sometimes elongated but highly activated female figures, in various choreographic poses, epitomised for the artist the African preferred types in human beauty. The Agboghommuo, in performance also reenacts and reinforces the adored parameter of the beautiful among the Igbo of Nigeria. No wonder Ewonwu chose it as the motif for his beautiful painting of the same name. 

In Jime Akolo’s (b. 1935) Yoruba Dancer, we see dance as a metaphor of happiness or joy called airy in Yoruba language. In this painting, rendered in a highly academic, semi-abstract mode, the artist appears to say that happiness is infectious, captivating and associated with characteristics formal preference withing given groups. It would also appear from the pose of the dancing diggers that it coulees be found in the rolling buttocks of the gracious dancers.

The Ben Ewonwu Foundation is located at The Omenka Gallery

Photo 1: Agboghommuo Dancing Maiden Spirit by Ben Enwonwu, 1960 (1921-1994) Courtesy of Nigeria Magazine, no. 78, p. 92 

Photo 2: Yoruba Dancers by Jimoh Akolo, 1962 Courtesy of Nigeria Magazine, no. 78, p. 92 

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