Uche Okeke, Nigerian artist, Died at 83

Christopher Uchefuna Okeke was born on April 30, 1933, in Nimo, Nigeria and died January 6, 2016.

He was popularly known as Uche Okeke.

He was a contemporary Nigerian artist.

His parents were Isaac Okonkwo Okeke and Monica Mgboye Okeke (née Okoye).

Okeke attended St. Peter Claver’s (Primary) School, Kafanchan, Metropolitan College, Onitsha, and Bishop Shanahan College, Orlu, during which time he had already begun to demonstrate an avid interest in drawing and painting.

In his anticipation to read Fine Art at Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Okeke had already exhibited taxidermy work during the Field Society meeting in Jos Museum, participated in the preparation and presentation of Nigerian Drawings and Paintings with Bernard Fagg as curator and had a solo exhibition of drawings and paintings, in Jos and Kaduna with Sir Ahmadu Bello in attendance.

He has worked together with Yusuf Grillo, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko and others, inaugurated the Zaria Art Society.

However, during that same year, Okeke opened a cultural centre at 30 Ibadan Street, Kafanchan, which later became the Asele Institute, Nimo, where among other cultural activities a part of the Smithsonian-Institution sponsored educational film Nigerian Art – Kindred Spirits was shot in 1996.

Okeke in the 70’s was appointed lecturer and acting head of Fine Arts Department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he reviewed the entire course programme introducing new courses and research into Igbo Uli art tradition.

In 1973, Uche also designed the first course programme of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, and initiated postgraduate courses in the Department of Fine Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Uche Okeke has served as a director at the Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Visiting Professor to the Department of Creative Arts, University of Port Harcourt, Honorary Deputy Director-General (Africa) of International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, among numerous other engagements with many educational and cultural institutions in different parts of the world.

His inspiration was/is widespread throughout Nigerian artists and Africanist art historians, including some of the world’s avant-garde.

He has carried the Uli experiment beyond the walls of Zaria and stood in the forefront of its transformation into a modern idiom in the 1970s, from the studios at Nsukka was original.

Uche Okeke passed away at 83 yrs old on 5 January 2016 in his native home at Nimo.