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Chika Okeke

(b Aba, 1964).

Nigerian painter, installation artist, art historian and poet. He carried out undergraduate studies work (1981–6) and some graduate work (1987–9) at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. There he trained with Obiora Udechukwu, whose influence can be seen in Oguibe's use of uli, nsibidi and mbari motifs (see under Ejagham and Africa §V 3.). From 1986 to 1987 he taught at the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta. He also wrote poetry and in 1992 won the Christopher Okigbo All-Africa Prize for A Gathering Fear. He spent 1990 as an artist-in-residence in Bayreuth, Germany, and 1994 in Friebourg. He studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, receiving a PhD in art history in 1992. Between 1995 and 1999 he taught art history at the University of Chicago and the University of South Florida, Tampa.

In the early 1980s his work comprised painted mats and cane meshes, but he returned to watercolour and acrylic while in London, and in the 1990s he moved increasingly towards installation and conceptual art. Compositionally, some of his paintings were inspired by Fante flags and mbari murals, with patterned borders and simple motifs in the centre of the picture plane. Often confrontational, his pieces address the politics of art as well as the Nigerian world. His installation pieces, for example, evoked memories and experiences of the Biafran war (the Nigerial civil war). His work of the mid- to late-1990s is multivalent, its meanings less fixed and its messages less direct. He is also a prolific writer on contemporary African art....