From 1960 to 1966, Enwonwu completed several portrait commissions from ‘individuals, civic, religious, and secular organizations, including that of Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria' (Sylvester Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, Rochester, 2008, p. 155). At the point of making this illustration, Enwonwu was occupied with a ‘militant affirmation of Negritude ideology,’ in which he ‘incorporated obvious signs of African identity (masks and other cultural motifs) into his art’.
As with much of his works, Drawing of a head illustrates Enwonwu’s attempt to represent the best of Nigeria’s indigenous cultures. He was influential in representing the post-colonial Nigerian identity both to Nigerian nationalists and colonial government. ‘His art was devoted to nationalist ideals and deployed symbols drawn from significant cultural motifs of several indigenous ethnic groups' (ibid., p. 155).
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