Olu Oguibe
Biography Summa cum laude and best graduate of all time of the University of Nigeria, I received my Bachelors in Fine and Applied Arts in 1986 after a brief suspension from university for activities as Secretary-General of the University of Nigeria Students Union, 1983-1985. (I quit graduate school, too, before I was officially kicked out. But that was later.) Upon graduation I received 5 awards for academic excellence including the Nigerian National Council for Arts and Culture Prize and the Indira Gandhi Memorial Prize. I had previously received the Nigerian National Merit Award for High Academic Standing for 4 consecutive years, as well as 4 awards of merit for my services to the University of Nigeria Students Union. I also received the Pro-Chancellor's special mention for best academic performance of all time. As president of the Class of '86, however, I did not get to plant the tree for the class. That was much too much for the university, so, they let the guy from the previous year plant my class tree. I gave the valedictory speech before the convocation!

After national service during which I also taught art in the Ogun State College of Education, Abeokuta, I enrolled for a combined Masters/Doctoral program at the University of Nigeria with a concentration in Art History. After two years I quit the university and shortly after was awarded a Potential Leaders' Scholarship of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to pursue the PhD in Contemporary and African Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I did my research on the British-Nigerian artist, Uzo Egonu.

I enrolled at the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1989 and in 1992 I was awarded the PhD of the University of London. The dissertation has been severally cited and was published under the title, Uzo Egonu: An African Artist in the West by Kala Press of London in 1995. The book has been described by Professor Emeritus Simon Ottenberg of the University of Washington, Seattle as "the most sophisticated and instensive full-length analysis of a modern African visual artist", and by Professor Obiora Udechukwu of the University of Nigeria as "a major benchmark in the criticism of modern African art." See Publications.

I have taught at several colleges and universities including SOAS, where I taught African Literature, and Goldsmiths College, University of London, where I taught Critical Theory in the Visual Arts. I have also given guest lectures at numerous other institutions including the Universities of Augsburg, Bayreuth, Oxford, Manchester and Edinburgh, as well as Howard University and the Sydney Institute of Technology. I currently teach Art History including African and African-American Art at the University of South Florida, Tampa.

I also co-edit Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art in New York, as well as the New York popular culture magazine, aRude. Nka is co-published with the Africana Studies Center of Cornell University and with the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation.

I have published poetry since 14 when I won my first international runner-up prize in the World Animal Rights Day poetry competition. To date I have published 3 books of poetry. My second book of poems, A Gathering Fear, which is also my first collection, won the 1992 Christopher Okigbo All-Africa Prize for Literature. In 1993 it received honorary mention in the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. It has been published in 2 editions. My first book of poems, A Song from Exile has reappeared in two international anthologies and has been translated into Spanish and Catalan. I have also published poetry in numerous journals and other media including Poetry Wales, Wasafiri, and West Africa magazine. See Poetry.

I have practised as an artist for several years and have had one-person exhibitions in Nigeria, Britain, Germany and Australia since 1988. I worked as a painter for several years but concentrate on installation art presently. See Exhibitions.

I have also written art and cultural criticism for numerous organs in Africa, Europe, America and Australia since 1987. See Publications.

On the very personal side, I was born under the Libra sign on Wednesday, October 14, 1964 in Aba, Nigeria. I have seven younger sisters. I keep no pets.

I enjoy chess, mathematics and reading. I read mostly poetry, classics, and essays, though I would read almost anything. My favorite authors are Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Naguib Mahfouz, Alex La Guma, Federico Garcia Lorca, Walt Whitman, Christopher Okigbo and Mahmoud Darwish. I also enjoy June Jordan, Carl Sandburg, Salvador Espriu, and Octavio Paz.

My music taste is very eclectic and ranges from Sir Warrior to Yothu Yindi. My favorites are:
  • High Life: Joe Nez, Sir Warrior, Victor Olaiya, Victor Uwaifo.
  • The Blues: Robert Cray, John Lee Hooker, BB King, Etta James, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison (I call him Blues rather than Rock)
  • Rock: Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Guns and Roses, Tracy Chapman, Pre-Batman Seal.
  • Pop: Michael Jackson, Sade [the ultimate pinup of every young Nigerian male].
  • Funk: James Brown, Fella Anikulapo-Kuti.
  • Hip-Hop: Tupac, NWA, Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, Salt N' Pepper.
  • Reggae: Bob Marley, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Black Uhuru, and the greatest rhythm section in the world: Sly and Robbie. No Dance Hall, please, except Chaka Demus and Pliers.
  • R&B [or shall we say 'soul']: Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole.
  • Jazz: All the old school: Duke, Sachmo, Count, Ella, Lady, then, Miles - Sketches of Spain, Miles Ahead, Kind of Blue, Highlights from the Plugged Nickel [with Herbie Hancock on piano at the famed Chicago club, December 1965], Coltrane, Bird, Dollar Brand, Dollar Brand, and the God of the Trumpet, Hugh Masekela. Plus: George Benson, Don Cherry, Groover Washington, Steve Williamson and Bheki Mseleku.
  • I also like The Empress, Miriam Makeba.
  • Then, I would listen to just about anything except European classical music. Well, I do like Tchaikovsky and Nigel Kennedy.
    I am an electronic ‘toys' freak (computers and chess, mainly.) And yes, I do enjoy good company and engaging conversation. No smoking, no drugs, no alcohol, no meat. Can't dance, either, so, save the last dance for me, when everyone is gone.