YOUNG WOMAN SEATED, UVBI SERIES
signed and dated 1967 (lower right)
pastel on black paper
76 by 50.5cm., 30 by 19¾in.
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Acquired directly from the artist, c. 1967
Thence by descent
Born in 1934, in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, Erhabor Emokpae is regarded as a progenitor and virtuoso of modern art in Nigeria and an eminent artist who worked with a variety of media, ranging from bronze sculptures, to pastel and oil painting. In his formative years, Emokpae was influenced by the Benin Guild of Carvers. After Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Emokpae was influential in shaping the direction of art in the nation. His efforts are recognised in the organisation of the Eastern Nigeria Festival of Arts (1956-1959), as well as his tenures as secretary within the Society of Nigerian Artists and the Lagos Arts Council. In the 1970’s, a replica of the ivory mask of Queen Mother Idia was crafted by Emokpae, this would later become the emblem of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac ’77).
Known for his geometric abstractions in the style of Russian suprematist, Kazimir Malevich, the Uvbi Series represent the virtuosity of Emokpae. Young Woman Seated, Burlesque Dancer and Young Woman in Profile are strong representations of beautiful Benin women. In Young Woman Seated and Young Woman in Profile, both women are adorned and ornamented with coral beads, a signifier of high status amongst the Benin People of Nigeria. The word ‘uvbi’ in the Benin language is a term used to describe a princess and colloquially a beautiful woman. The Uvbi Series are prodigious examples of Emokpae’s ethnographic and romantic style of painting, executed with immeasurable skill, they cement Emokpae’s position as an exponent of Benin beauty.