Demas Nwoko is a respected Nigerian artist, architect and master builder in Nigeria. Born in 1935, Nwoko’s works fuse modern techniques in architecture and stage design with African tradition. With works like The Dominican Institute, Ibadan and The Akenzua Cultural Center, Benin to his credit, Demas Nwoko is one ‘artist-architect’ who believes in celebrating the African tradition in his works.
In 2007, Farafina published The Architecture of Demas Nwoko, a study of Nwoko’s work and theories. We have pasted below a review of The Architecture of Demas Nwoko in the African Book Publishing Record. Enjoy!
John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood
The Architecture of Demas Nwoko.
Lagos: Farafina, 2007.
This is a beautiful work demonstrating and analyzing the
contributions of Demas Nwoko, the Nigerian architect,
artist, poet and all-around person of letters. Indeed, many
books could be written discussing Nwoko’s work in a
number of artistic fields. John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood
do touch on a number of these fields and Nwoko’s
contributions to them. However, they are architects and quite
rightly they concentrate on architecture. Having spent some
time in Ibadan at the Dominican Institute, one of Nwoko’s
masterpieces, I can appreciate their enthusiasm for his work.
In fact, the Dominican Institute was his first major
architectural project. He asked the Dominicans if he could
assist them in their new building. The Dominican fathers,
whom I know well, were eager to incorporate African motifs
in their new buildings in Ibadan. Nwoko’s designs perfectly
fit their needs. Nwoko’s studies in Zaria and Paris had
prepared him well for his plan of combining African art with
modern ideas of European art. He began designing for
University of Ibadan theatrical productions. It was his new
ideas, which led to his work with the Dominicans and that
success led to his subsequent works throughout Nigeria,
including the Benin Theater. The Benin Theater uses
Japanese and Greek designs in an African setting. I would
be remiss if I did not mention his cultural centre in Ibadan
and the sceptre he designed for his brother’s coronation.
His brother is the Obi of Idumoje Ugboko.
In addition to his architecture Nwoko has many other
accomplishments in the arts. He co-published New Culture,
a leading arts magazine, pointing the way toward new
movements in African art. He led the way toward a modern
mode of expression in African art, theater, painting, and
architecture. In addition, he is a fine actor, having performed
in numerous plays in Ibadan. He also is a distinguished
professor in Ibadan.
Godwin and Hopwood manage to capture all of these
facets of Nwoko’s career while keeping the focus on his
architecture. Nwoko belongs to that generation of artists,
along with Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, who fought
for Nigerian independence artistically as well as politically.
This book has been produced to an exceptionally high
quality, with plentiful photographs. The Architecture of
Demas Nwoko is recommended for all architecture and
African Studies collections.