UZO EGONU – A STATELESS EXPAT.
By Nii B. Andrews.
Uzo Egonu (1931- 1996) was a member of the “Commonwealth generation” – a segment of the British population that has been in the news recently for less than savory reasons.
He was born in Onitsha and traveled to London in his early teens purposefully to become an artist.
Egonu spent almost all of his artistic career in London and achieved renown in the 1950s and 60s after completing his training in printmaking and painting at Camberwell.
As a thorough modernist, his work exposed the palpable inaccuracy of the purported naivety of the African artist.
Egonu was able to create a delightful synthesis of visual languages between his African artistic heritage and Western art.
On account of his lifelong interest in the political and socioeconomic development of his native land – Nigeria, Egonu’s art often reflected the numerous slights that he experienced in the West and the tragic growing pains of his motherland.
Sadly, today the former are still being experienced by the “Commonwealth generation” – profuse apologies notwithstanding.
He stated, “In this modern age, it is not good enough for a country to feel that because it is not a colony of another power this fact is itself commendable.
What is commendable is what a country is trying to achieve and what it has accomplished”.
Egonu always maintained a sadness about his birthplace. This was most evident during the Biafran War and its aftermath.
His art work has been credited with having forged the “possibility of an authentic African presence in an international world.”