May Your Kingdom Come
Peter at the Gate Called Beautiful, 1968
Collection of Bruce Onobrakpeya
Onobrakpeya skillfully and imaginatively blends Biblical narratives with Nigerian visual culture in his work, culling elements from varied peoples and places across the country. Peter at the Gate Called Beautiful records the events of Acts 3:2–11, when Peter, one of twelve disciples of Jesus, performs a miracle, giving a crippled man the ability to walk. While the composition follows the precedents of historical Catholic art, the architecture, clothing, and visual symbology in this image are distinctly Nigerian. By incorporating Nigerian culture into Western visual models, Onobrakpeya achieves a “natural synthesis” of European formalism and Nigerian artistic expression. Such “synthesis,” says Onobrakpeya, “means accepting what is good and beautiful in our culture and enriching it with worthwhile ideas from abroad to create new sets of values or forms.”
Speaking more specifically of his Nigerian influences, Onobrakpeya “found the decorated facades of Hausa architecture very fascinating.” Hausa is a style of architecture clearly depicted in the background of this image, foregrounded by the decoratively hemmed attire of the standing figures. Onobrakpeya has also, and on more than one occasion, asserted his interest in Yoruba adire cloth patterns, whose geometrical shapes are frequently referenced in the artist’s May Your Kingdom Come and Stations of the Cross series. Here they are mirrored in some of the ornamental designs on the gate’s walls. Bold shapes on the gate can also be found in masks that feature spiral formations carved and painted in the Igbo tradition. This combination of ranging ethnocultural influences is intentional, a recognition of the rich diversity embodied in Nigerian national identity.
Yoruba Artist, Nigeria
Adire Cloth, twentieth century
Cotton and indigo
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Fred and Rita Richman Collection, 1983.87
Igbo Artist, Nigeria
Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 2017.90
Hausa Artist, Nigeria
Hausa Trousers, twentieth century
Cotton and wool
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchase with funds from Taylor Stuckey, 2007.80
Courtyard In Zaria With Hausa Motifs.