#049 Chike Aniakor

"Arrow of God", 1987, dry point, 16 X 12 inches

Chike Aniakor’s “Arrow of God” is a profound linear narrative, inspired by the 1964 novel by Chinua Achebe of the same title, the third in a trilogy, which includes Things Fall Apart (1958) and No Longer At Ease (1960). The phrase "Arrow of God" is drawn from an Igbo metaphor in which a person, or sometimes an event, is said to represent the will of God. The novel centers on Ezeulu, the chief priest of Ulu (the most prominent of the gods of the nine villages of Umuaro in Eastern Colonial Nigeria), who confronts colonial powers and Christian missionaries in the 1920s. In the story, Ezeulu is caught between his ego, personal desire for vengeance against his people and the conflict between two gods (Idemmili and Ulu).

With a deft manipulation of negative and positive spaces and a poetic arrangement of short and rhythmical strokes, Aniakor masterfully renders a compelling interpretation of Achebe’s Arrow of God. He depicts Ezeulu, who was presented in the novel as “no more than an arrow in the bow of his god (Ulu)”, seated within a larger figure, possibly Ulu, crested with circular forms which resemble a halo. In Ezeulu’s back and forming the mass of the illustration, is a crowd of people – the Umuaro community. Ezeulu’s right hand is raised as if dropping his staff which frames the composition on the left side. On the head of this staff are human figures with hands raised in supplication/anguish. Ezeulu’s left hand is missing, perhaps to illustrate his description as ‘okara mmadu okara mmuo’ (half man, half spirit).

Chike Aniakor is one of the key proponents of the Uli movement which emphasizes the economic use of lyrical lines and space in the manner of the unique practice of body and wall decoration among traditional Igbo women. He is, however, known more for his contribution to art history, especially Igbo cultural history and architecture. Currently, a Professor of Art History at the CrossRiver State University of Science and Technology, Calabar, Nigeria, a few of his works collected by Ulli Beier from a printmaking workshop in Nsukka in 1986 are in the Iwalewahaus Collection.

Iheanyichukwu Onwuegbucha

Associate Curator

CCA, Lagos