Zaria Art Society, The By Ezeluomba, Ndubuisi
Formed in 1958 by a group of undergraduate students in the Fine Art Department of the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (later renamed Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria), the Zaria Art Society was an ideological group that rejected the modes of teaching and producing art at the institution. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Zaria Rebels’, the group’s impetus was hinged around the euphoria of pre- and post-Independence nationalism of the time, but also the need to create new art. The idea that underpinned the formation of the Zaria Art Society was predicated on Uche Okeke’s enunciation of natural synthesis. As a concept, natural synthesis advocated the fusion of indigenous visual arts with useful Western ones. This was central to the Zaria Art Society’s ideology. These artists created works that reflected the diverse cultures of the Nigerian state.
Members of the Zaria Art Society were concerned with the increasing influence of foreign cultural values and traditions on art in Nigeria, and the consequent erasure or denial of local artistic traditions and ideas. Thus, the concept of ‘natural synthesis’ was conceived and advocated by the group’s founder, Uche Okeke. Members of the group, including Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko, Yusuf Grillo, Simon Okeke, Jimoh Akolo, Oseloka Osadebe, and Emmanuel Odita, responded to the ideas set forth by creating works that reflected the diverse cultures of the Nigerian state.