Ben Osawe Nigeria, 1931-2007


Ben Osawe was a central artist of Nigeria’s post-independence generation. He is best known for his modernist sculptures. Osawe’s wood carvings and bronze castings incorporated fluid shapes and minimalist features, often abstracting the human form.

Born in 1931 in Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria, Ben Osawe was first introduced to art by his father, who was a sculptor and served as a carver to the court of the Kingdom of Benin. Osawe moved to London in his twenties for his formal art education. By the 1960s, Osawe had exhibited extensively throughout Europe. In 1965, he was selected to represent Nigeria as one of five Commonwealth artists in the Commonwealth Exhibition in Glasgow. After ten years in London, Osawe returned to Nigeria in 1966, working as an artist in Lagos until settling in Benin City in 1979.  During his years in Lagos, Osawe exhibited with the Mbari Centre in Ibadan and the Mainland Hotel, Lagos. Common themes in Osawe’s work include heads, masks, and abstract sculptural busts, which reflected his interest in combining African narratives within the context of modernist art practice.

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