In 1986, the Nigerian police killed 15 students at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Nigeria, following a protest regarding extortionist tuition fees. In the wake of those killings, protests spread to other universities across Nigeria. Chike Azuonye was an undergraduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka at the time. The Agony of Sacrifice was inspired by those events. That same year, Iwalewahaus collaborated with the Nsukka Art School to make and exhibit some of the students’ prints in Nigeria and Germany, and The Agony of Sacrifice was chosen.
On this work, Chike Azuonye says: “The students at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria protested against increasing tuition fees that had the potential of affecting not just their immediate welfare but also the welfare of future students. This led to a high-handed response by the university and the police, leading to the fifteen deaths. These deaths pushed other students to protest and challenge the unpopular policies. The Agony of Sacrifice celebrates the selflessness of their love. It is a creative monument that says their sacrifice was not in vain, for ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13).
Chike Azuonye is a Nigerian artist based in London, UK. He holds a BA (Hons) degree in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he majored in painting under the tutelage of Uche Okeke, Obiora Udechukwu and El Anatsui. As a member of the Anthill Night Club of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which was a hub for creative minds, Chike Azuonye wrote and read his poems at the club regularly. It was during this period of protests that he wrote the poem, Zaria, in memory of those students who lost their lives to trigger-happy men in uniform in 1986.
Chike Azuonye is a founding member and current Vice President of the Nigeria Art Society UK (NASUK), whose latest exhibition Legacies of Biafra (2018) at the Brunei Gallery SOAS, London has been critically acclaimed.