Modern & Contemporary African Art | and CCA Lagos Benefit Auction

Modern & Contemporary African Art | and CCA Lagos Benefit Auction

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 73. Stateless People (E).

Lot Closed

March 22, 04:14 PM GMT


15,000 - 20,000 GBP

Lot Details


Uzo Egonu



Stateless People (E)

signed and dated 1981 (lower left); label bearing the title (on the reverse)

oil on canvas

173 by 119cm., 68 by 47in.

framed: 177 by 124cm., 69 3/4 by 48 3/4in.

Born in 1931 in Onitsha in south-east Nigeria, Egonu came to England in 1945 as a 13 year old boy when his father, an affluent British colonial civil servant, sent him to a private school (as most wealthy Nigerian families did at the time). He studied fine art and design at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts 1949–52, and lived in England for the rest of his life, only returning to Nigeria once for a brief visit. The artist’s work harmoniously combines aesthetic traditions of both the West and Africa, reshaping the definition of Modernist art. 

Egonu synthesised his formative years growing up in Nigeria with his academic training in European modernism, responding directly to events Nigeria as well as to his own personal circumstances as an expatriate in Britain. Without the means to return, but deeply concerned for his family, he closely followed developments in Nigeria and much of his work from this period relates to the mounting political tension in Nigeria in 1966 and the ensuing Biafran War (1967–70). He maintained ties to Africa, participating in the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal in 1966 and the Second World Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977.

Stateless People (E) is a later work by Nigerian artist Uzo Egonu, painted during a period of physical and emotional agony. His partial blindness and deteriorating health prompted an introspective examination of his life. Stylistically, this painting is formed of abstract inspired bold patterns, simple linear detail, and broad flat areas. He painted this work amidst a period of anxiety when he was occupied with questions of nation and identity. These thoughts formed the conceptual foundation for the whole Stateless People series,.

Egonu exhibited internationally in solo and group shows, including alongside other Black and Minority Ethnic artists in the landmark exhibition The Other Story at the Hayward Gallery in 1989. Curator Rasheed Araeen described Egonu as "perhaps the first person from Africa, Asia or the Caribbean to come to Britain after the War with the sole intention of becoming an artist". He belonged to a generation of non-European artists who chose to live and work in London, but nevertheless struggled to receive institutional recognition for their contribution to the modernist discourse.