Mbanefo is a sculptor and painter from Onitsha. Over the past few decades he has created amazing sculptures from various wood sources exploring themes like mortality and maternity; and capturing and processing the Nigerian cultural experience through masquerade forms and totems.
Mbanefo’s paintings are heavily influenced by his sculptural roots so you’ll find linear figures, bold lines and contoured forms.
The main subject of the artwork ‘New realities’ is the Ogolo masquerade, a mainstay of Onitsha culture popularised by Ben Enwonwu, another Onitsha indigene. The Ogolo, as with many masquerades, embodies the connection between the real and the ethereal and in its present-day secular manifestation still symbolises a certain communal glory.
Mbanefo captures the Ogolo in its grace and glory but introduces the masquerade to the mundane reality of today – the Ogolo in all its glory still has to join the hunt for petrol.
It is a simple, profound commentary on the state of our nation, a testament to the new reality – the sacred as commonplace, the struggle to exist suppressing the best human qualities, the spirit succumbing to the daily battles. The era of Negritude when Enwonwu’s Ogolo embodied the rising spirit of Africa is in decline. It may not be a terminal. One hopes it isn’t. But until then Mbanefo’s artwork is an unusual, quirky commentary on our present condition.