Gerald Chukwuma (b. 1973) is one of Nigeria’s fastest-rising contemporary artists noted for his intricately crafted sculptures on wood panels and pallets. Using a multitude of techniques, his unique approach to burning, chiseling, and painting common materials capture a richly layered history imbedded with personal and political meaning. The use of traditional Uli and Nsibidi symbols links his work to the Nsukka art tradition which expanded and modernized the Igbo cultural aesthetic. Meanwhile, the transformation of objects into highly detailed artworks roots him firmly in the contemporary moment of rapid environmental and ecological change.
In his work spanning paintings, sculptures, and collages, Chukwuma explores migration as a constant process of transformation and reinvention. Considering the implications of globalization on his local community, Chukwuma transforms everyday materials to render new stories of Nigeria’s socio-political landscape. The artist is drawn to the movements of people through voluntary and forced migration as a vital stage in the progress of our collective humanity. This sense of optimism imbues his work with playfully illustrative characters drawn from a wide variety of visual forms present in Nigeria’s deep cultural history.
Typical of the artist’s detail-driven approach, these works interweave a personal intimacy, the artist hand-crafts work, but they refer to the global context of time, trade, and travel. Some works appear as aerial views of road networks and urban landscapes, however, upon closer inspection, the surface appears to be collaged images constructed from drink cans and sim-cards sourced from local communities. These are the very same communities that appear in the woodcarvings as symbols of urban societies galvanized by the realities of globalisation and coloured by internal and external conflicts.