Contemporary Perspectives on the Historic: Stone Sculptures of Oladapo Afolayan as Continuity and Development in the Trajectory of Nigerian Stone Art
Oladapo Afolayan’s stone sculptures are contemporary by every qualification. However, he has built on far-reaching legacies of ancient stone art cultures that existed in Nigeria, such as Nok, Ile-Ife, Ekoi and Esie. The trajectory of stone art as it is found in Nigeria is traceable because the forms and styles are intact due to the durability of the medium of stone and because of its bulkiness, not many stone sculptures were lost to colonial looting and acquisition. Early explorers and historians like Leo Frobenius were reluctant to accept African human origin for many of these stone sculptures because of their sizes, quantity, quality, value and locations. These levels of aesthetic and technical sophistication may have challenged many contemporary artists to have shied away from attempting to replicate or resuscitate the mode of those works, albeit contemporarily, but not Oladapo Afolayan. He has, for over three decades, produced over 300 stone sculptures in various types of stone that can equal the past works in all dimensions. The artist’s repertoire reflects the high dexterity, ingenuity and mastery of medium that can be observable in the historical stone works. By fieldwork consisting of mostly observations, interviews, photography and literature review, this study documented the stone sculptures of Oladapo Afolayan, and juxtapositions them with the ancient works to be able to establish his contemporary perspectives as a continuity and development of stone art in Nigeria. Oladapo Afolayan’s practice, not only revives an enduring art form, but is also engaged in visual documentation of Nigerian history, creating material culture, training and mentoring future sculptors for the sustainability of stone-carving, and overall Nigerian art globally.
Keywords: Art History, Continuity, Development, Nigerian Sculpture, Oladapo Afolayan, Stone Art