06 Dec Stations of the Cross – Worship as style and statement

1969. Bruce Onobrakpeya would create his Station of the Cross paintings for St. Paul’s Church, Ebute Metta. He would go on to create these artworks as etchings. With the consent of the Church priest, Father Kevin Carroll, Onobrakpeya interpreted the idea of the Stations of the Cross as a local event using African characters to convey this journey of Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion. The reason for this would have been the climate of intellectual emancipation prevalent in this post-independence period.

1988. David Dale would create his own Stations of the Cross. To be fair, he probably created a few before and after this one in 1988, as he had a string of church commissions in the eighties and nineties.

The one in 1988 was for a new church in Ijebu Ode. The church eventually decided to go with his stained glass artwork instead of the Stations sculptures. But he had created them already — fourteen sculptures in resin conveying Christ’s journey. He liked them a lot and decided to keep them.

Both artists – Onobrakpeya and Dale are, in many ways, intertwined. Both of them have played a huge role in the development of art in Nigeria. Dale started life as an artist under the tutelage of the young Onobrakpeya. Both artist have explored similar themes, obviously in their very different ways.

Dale has always been minimalist. Not in an obvious way. But his artworks suggest as much as they convey. He tells his stories as much with empty spaces as with broad strokes.

In his Stations sculptures he chose to retain the traditional idea of the Stations of the Cross. Understandable. He was never really a warrior of the emancipation like Onobrakpeya, Uche Okeke. And some other independence era artists. He ideas were about expressing himself simply as an artist.

His Stations of the Cross sculptures are simple, fluid and elegant as his art tends to be. These fourteen resin sculptures are somewhat contemplative as Stations of the Cross artworks are probably meant to be. They are beautiful as well. And uplifting.

The church may have gained a stained glass artwork, but thankfully the rest of us can enjoy these Stations sculptures. David Dale’s Stations of the Cross and other new artworks at the gallery can be seen here.