Uzo Egonu

Uzo Egonu
Born(1931-12-25)25 December 1931
Died14 August 1996(1996-08-14) (aged 64)
London, UK
Other namesWilliam Uzo Egonu

Uzo Egonu (25 December 1931 – 14 August 1996) was a Nigerian-born artist who settled in Britain in the 1940s,[1] only once returning to his homeland for two days in the 1970s,[2] although he remained concerned with African political struggles.[3] According to Rasheed Araeen, Egonu was "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."[4] According to critic Molara Wood, "Egonu’s work merged European and Igbo traditions but more significantly, placed Africa as the touchstone of modernism. In combining the visual languages of Western and African art, he helped redefine the boundaries of modernism, thereby challenging the European myth of the naïve, primitive African artist."[5]

Many people ask if Uzo Egonu had children, well the answer is that he had one child but he was adopted no one knows what his name might be but people imagine that his name was uzo egonu jr, but no one really knows what his name is.


Born in Onitsha,[1] Nigeria, Egonu was in his early teens when in 1945 he first travelled to England.[2] Having already begun to draw while attending Sacred Heart College, Calabar[6] before leaving for the UK, he eventually studied Fine Arts and Typography at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, London,[1][3] from 1949 to 1952,[7] and went on to participate in a number of exhibitions.[2]

In 1977, he was among the Black artists and photographers whose work represented the UK at the Second World Festival of Black Arts and African Culture (Festac '77) in Lagos, Nigeria (the others being Winston Branch, Ronald Moody, Mercian Carrena, Armet Francis, Emmanuel Taiwo Jegede, Neil Kenlock, Donald Locke, Cyprian Mandala, Ossie Murray, Sue Smock, Lance Watson and Aubrey Williams).[8][9] In 1983 the International Association of Art called on him to advise it for the rest of his life, an honor which he shared with painters and sculptors like Henry Moore, Joan Miró and Louise Nevelson.[10] Egonu was also included in two major 20th-century exhibitions featuring Black British artists: in 1989 the landmark show at London's Hayward Gallery, The Other Story, and seven years later Transforming the Crown, curated by the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York City. He was a member of the Rainbow Art Group, an initiative set up in 1978, which recognized the main problem that exists in relation to the work and aspirations of all ethnic minorities in the art world, including their own.[11]

In later years he suffered two heart attacks and deteriorating eyesight, and on 14 August 1996 he died in London.[12]

Style and legacy[]

The subject of a study by Olu Oguibe entitled Uzo Egonu: An African Artist in the West (1995), Egonu has also often been described as "perhaps Africa’s greatest modern painter".[7][13] Eddie Chambers has commented on Egonu's "remarkable ability to render landscapes and cityscapes as compelling and fascinating geometrical configurations, each very different in its representational aspects."[14] His work featured in the 2015–16 exhibition No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990 at the Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London.[15]

Selected exhibitions[]



  1. ^ a b c "Uzo Egonu", Diaspora Artists.
  2. ^ a b c Ulrich Clewing, "Three hues for Piccadilly Circus" Archived 2015-10-16 at the Wayback Machine,, 22 June 2003.
  3. ^ a b "Uzo Egonu, Artist", InIVA.
  4. ^ Rasheed Araeen, "Recovering Cultural Metaphors", The Other Story catalog, 1989, p. 86.
  5. ^ a b Molara Wood, "Uzo Egonu's Vision of London", 30 September 2005. First published in The Guardian, Lagos, on 19 December 2004.
  6. ^ Rasheed Araeen, "Uzo Egonu 1931–1996", Third Text, Volume 10, Issue 36, 1996, pp. 105–106. DOI:10.1080/09528829608576634.
  7. ^ a b " The Creative Case for Diversity in Britain > Further reading on the Artists", Third Text: Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture.
  8. ^ "Festac (Second Festival of Black Arts and Culture)", Tate.
  9. ^ Eddie Chambers, Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s, I.B. Tauris, 2014, pp. 42–43, 58.
  10. ^ [1] Archived 2015-10-16 at the Wayback Machine, Uzo Egonu.
  11. ^ "Rainbow Art Group", Diaspora Artists.
  12. ^ "Monographs on African Artists| Egonu, Uzo, 1931-1996", Smithsonian Libraries.
  13. ^ "EGONU, Uzo - Artist Profile (1931 – 1996)" Archived 2015-08-02 at the Wayback Machine, Grosvenor Gallery.
  14. ^ Chambers (2014), p. 60.
  15. ^ FHALMA (Friends of the Huntley Archives) at London Metropolitan Archives, "The Artists' Profiles" Archived 2015-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, Huntleys Online.
  16. ^ "Uzo Egonu: Past and Present in the Diaspora", InIVA (11 October – 13 June).
  17. ^ Chambers (2014), pp. 6, 8.
  18. ^ Holland Cotter, "ART REVIEW; This Realm of Newcomers, This England", The New York Times, 24 October 1997.
  19. ^ Chambers (2014), p. 49.

Further reading[]

External links[]