Bruce Obomeyoma Onobrakpeya, born on August 30th, 1932 in Oghara, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State, is a distinguished Nigerian printmaker, painter, and sculptor. He inherited his passion for arts from his father, an Urhobo carver, and further nurtured his talents at Western Boys High School, where he received formal art education. Continuing his pursuit of artistic excellence, he honed his skills at the British Council Art Club Benin, focusing on the art of drawing.
Onobrakpeya’s creative journey spans over half a century, marked by distinct phases that reveal his evolving artistic expressions. His works are categorized into four segments, each representing specific periods in his studio practice. The first segment, “Mythical Realism,” showcases his paintings and prints depicting folklore themes and Northern Landscapes. The second phase delves into the artist’s experimentation with bronze objects within his workshop. The third series highlights his execution of Christian themes commissioned by various churches. Finally, the fourth segment captures historical images symbolizing Ancestral Groves in the Benin Kingdom.
Throughout his prolific career, Onobrakpeya’s art has graced prestigious venues worldwide. His exhibitions include presentations at the Tate Modern in London, the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Malmo Konsthall in Malmo, Sweden.
As an innovative artist, Onobrakpeya’s contribution to Nigerian art is unparalleled. He pioneered and refined various techniques in both printmaking and sculpture, distinctly representative of Nigeria’s artistic identity. His influence extends beyond his homeland, making him one of West Africa’s most prominent artists of the 20th century.
Onobrakpeya’s accolades are a testament to his significance in the art world. Notable awards include the British Council Award for visiting London Art Institutions in 1969, the US State Department Award for touring America on a cultural program in 1970, and the Pope John Paul IV Gold Medal for his series depicting the life of St. Paul in 1977. In recognition of his contributions, the Nigerian government honored him as a Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2002. The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) also recognized his immense impact on the visual arts sector, presenting him with an Award of Excellence during the National Creativity Day in 2010.
Onobrakpeya’s legacy goes beyond his art; he played a role in shaping copyright protection in Nigeria. He served as a Board Member on the inaugural Board of the Nigerian Copyright Council, established in 1989.
Bruce Onobrakpeya is indeed a world-renowned artist whose journey is characterized by unparalleled creativity and dedication to his craft. His extensive body of work, awards, and contributions to copyright protection solidify his position as a true icon in the realm of art and culture.