Drawing the Line: Obiora Udechukwu and Nigeria’s Smiling General 1980s-1990

‘Nigeria witnessed its first military coup in 1966, a civil war (1967-70), oil boom in the 1970s. In the 1980s, General Ibrahim Babangida, the smiling, brutal dictator, enforced Structural Adjustment, raised corruption to statecraft and impoverished the citizenry. In that same decade, the painter and poet Obiora Udechukwu (b. 1946), a leading figure of the Nsukka School, was at the height of his powers, with drawings and paintings celebrated for their lyrical power and trenchant social commentary. I consider the fate of art and the broader critical culture during the long decade, in the shadow of the military regimes.’