University of Leicester
2021BarberOOPhD.pdf (3.98 MB)

Modernity and Identity: The National Gallery of Modern Art Lagos (NGMAL) and the Politics of Nation Making

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posted on 2022-01-11, 14:14 authored by Olatunde O. Barber

This thesis investigates the dynamics, debates, and contexts of the performances of the National Gallery of Modern art Lagos (NGMAL) in the postcolonial nation-making process of Nigeria. It is a cultural and historical investigation into the assignation of modern art in Nigeria as a means for the communication of national identity politics. It highlights the role of modern art and artists in the negotiations of national identity politics in Nigeria from the 1920s through activism in the nation during the colonial era, to the independence and the postcolonial negotiations of the Nigerian nation.

It examines the dialogues between agents that guided developments, influenced revolutions, and negotiated the forms and operations of modern art in Nigeria against a background of socio-political change. It reveals the influence of the theories of Pan-Africanism and the négritude movement as key factors in the analysis of the acts of nation making through Nigerian art by Nigerian artists and the National Gallery of Modern Art Lagos. This research has been necessitated by the fact that this type of research on national art institutions is rare, and very little research has been done in this area in Africa.

The thesis illuminates several associated factors, such as trends in art production, the transition of Nigerian art from traditional to the modern, political changes in the nation, effects of the Nigerian Civil War, regional as well as geographical negotiations of the Nigerian national identity, and so on. It reveals the dynamic nature of the Nigerian identity which has been shaped by its constant negotiation. Thus, the thesis illuminates the circumstances and associated agents that continually organise and reconfigure the country’s identity through its art, art practices, canons and discourses.



Simon Knell; Stacy Boldrick

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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