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date: 22 August 2019

Ona (Ondulate), Thomaslocked

(b Ijebu-Odu; d c. ?1950s).
  • Dele Jegede


(b Ijebu-Odu; dc. ?1950s).

Nigerian sculptor. Self-taught, he used a pocket-knife to create from soft-woods small figures representing missionaries, chiefs, polo players, masked dancers and district officers, among others. Although they often are viewed as caricatures, these figures record contemporary life. Usually carved singly, his figures are often presented as a narrative installation or tableau. Ona was a keen observer of the people who inhabited colonial Nigeria. His style and favoured themes are best represented in pieces that show a District Officer on tour, in a boat, accompanied by a group of figures whose smaller scale alludes to their lower position in the social hierarchy. He was inventive in his medium: his figures are coloured with red and black ink and white shoe polish. The head was emphasized proportionately, in keeping with Yoruba aesthetics. While the figures are monoxylous, their accoutrements (hats, canes etc.) are often removable. Ona moved to Lagos in the 1940s and sold carvings to expatriates. His work was exhibited in the Contemporary African Arts show at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL, in ...

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