Nigerian-American Artist Victor Ekpuk at Princeton University Art Museum: Transforming an Ancient Graphic System for an Art for Today
Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk sees himself as an indigene of the West African culture, which engendered Nsibidi, an ancient ideographic communication system that is both textual and performative. Native to the Ejagham peoples of the Cross River region shared by Nigeria and Cameroon, Nsibidi likely originated around 400 C.E., spreading to the neighboring Ibibo, Efik, and Igbo peoples. During the Age of Slavery, it also crossed the Atlantic, taking root in Cuba and Haiti. Ekpuk draws inspiration from Nsibidi to create dense sign-and-symbol networks that dominate his art, giving it evocative, expressive power. These networks also include signs and symbols arising from his own memory and imagination, as well as ideas from other cultures. Utilizing all these resources, Ekpuk has developed a unique, personal vocabulary that embeds in his art a symbiotic, rhythmic interplay between art and writing. He has gone far beyond the Nigerian artists who preceded him in utilizing Nsibidi as part of a merging of Western modernism with Nigerian and African ways of art-making.
Love of drawing has also pervaded Ekpuk’s journey as an artist. “I am almost always painting on my drawings or drawing on my paintings,” he says, revealing that, at core, it is drawing that drives the force of his art. This fuse manifests itself even in his sculpture, which he sees as his passion for line finding three-dimensional incarnation. When Ekpuk creates his enormous site-specific ephemeral murals for which he is well-known, his command of line is such his creation virtually flows out of him as a stream of consciousness.
His drawing fluency made Ekpuk a successful illustrator and … Click here to read more