Lines, Faces, Fragments

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A short documentary portrait of the Nigerian artist and ceramicist Ozioma Onuzulike filmed in Nsukka, Nigeria

This short documentary film is a portrait of the Nsukka-based artist, ceramicist, writer, poet and Professor Ozioma Onuzulike that featured in the [Re:]Entanglements exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge.

In the film Ozioma Onuzulike is working on a series of clay “scarified face fragments” which were on display in the exhibition. Into these clay faces he is scoring the lines of igbu ichi, an ancient scarification mark that can be seen on the faces of many Igbo men in the photographs of the Government Anthropologist Northcote Thomas during his 1910-11 survey in what is today Anambra State, Nigeria. These scarification marks were seen as a sign of nobility and it is said that no one bearing these marks could be taken into slavery by the British colonial government.

Much of Ozioma Onuzulike‘s artwork is political. He often relies on the conceptual and metaphorical attributes of clay to explore different themes. The processes of crushing, pounding, cutting, wedging, slamming, pinching, kneading, scorching, firing, and often breaking the resulting work are all utilised to address different socio-political and economic issues for him. His work is inspired by the social histories of the African continent and their impact on the current realities in Nigeria and the wider African context.

In his work, he reflects on the slave trade and colonialism in Africa and the after-effects of these encounters. While millions of young African men and women were in the past forcefully taken away to work in the plantations, factories, and homes of their Euro-American masters, the economic situation today in Africa now forces them to legally and illegally migrate to work in Europe and America.

For Ozioma Onuzulike “the African continent has become a hostile environment in which to thrive. It is a vast land exploited and impoverished by imperial powers and their African collaborators. The search for ‘greener pastures’ has led many African immigrants to their deaths, especially in the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea, turning these zones into burial grounds for Africa’s youth”.

This film provides a window into his work, processes, and thinking and was filmed on location in 2020 at the University Of Nsukka where he is a professor of Ceramic Art & African art History

This film was a collaboration between The Light Surgeons and the [Re:]Entanglements project, led by Professor Paul Basu, now based at the Pitt Rivers Museum and School of Anthropology at the University of Oxford.


Directed by:Christopher Thomas Allen & Paul Basu
Camera: Christopher Thomas Allen
Editing: Christopher Thomas Allen

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