Old Wine in New Skins: The University of Benin Art Department and the “Art School” Trend in Nigeria
In Nigeria, many artists, critics and scholars of art have been quick to justify the preoccupation of Nigerian tertiary institutions Art Departments with the quest for an identity. Some Art Departments of Nigerian higher institutions have since been identified with one trait or the other and are also classified with one trait or the other or classified as ‘art schools'. Art groupings and movements have also emerged in some of these Art Departments. Inspite of the vibrant and evolving artistic scene in Nigeria's Art Departments, many are worried that the Benin Art Department has not made a collective presence felt on the Nigerian art scene. Certainly, it remains one of the least publicized of the Art Departments in Nigerian institutions. Contrary to these views, the University of Benin Art Department remains an artistic environment of the various representational styles and other artistic approaches as well as subject matter in Nigeria. It can best be likened to a complex art forum where students from various Nigerian Universities and Polytechnics converge to sublimate their art. Despite the now familiar criticisms, there is indeed an underlying philosophy of the totality of the arts in the Benin Art Department as obtained in the pre-colonial period, an attitude, which in turn has encouraged within the Art Department, the development of diverse styles.
Lagos Historical Review Vol. 8 2008: pp. 33-48