In a major event last week in Lagos, the Access Bank headquarters hosted the launch of a groundbreaking art book, “A King’s Passion: A 21st Century Patron of African Art.” The 588-page publication, sponsored by Access Bank and the Ford Foundation, takes a deep dive into the remarkable collection of modern and contemporary African art amassed by His Majesty, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, Obi of Onitsha.
Over four decades, the Obi of Onitsha’s passion and curiosity led him to accumulate over 4000 artworks, with more than 300 highlighted in the book. Scheduled to find a home at the Chimedie Museum in Onitsha by 2025, the collection is poised to contribute to the evolving role of art patronage in Africa and broaden the narratives surrounding African art.
“A King’s Passion,” edited by SMO Contemporary Art, showcases the works of 120 artists, including luminaries like Ben Enwonwu, Uche Okeke, El Anatsui, and many others. The book features rich illustrations and critical essays by leading scholars in African art, providing a comprehensive exploration of the continent’s creative expressions.
Dr Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Holdings, expressed delight in sponsoring the book, emphasizing its strategic importance in showcasing how art can drive the development of the continent. He commended the Obi of Onitsha for his 40-year commitment to nurturing African talent and creating a significant impact on identity, culture, and history.
The book launch included a critical review by art curator Jess Castelotte and a panel discussion featuring experts like Hannah O’Leary of Sotheby’s, photographer Kelechi Amadi-Obi, and Femi Akinsanya, a prominent African art collector. The event drew a diverse audience of local and international art enthusiasts attending the ART X Lagos art fair.
Dedicated to the late social justice activist Innocent Chukwuma, the book underscores the Obi of Onitsha’s commitment to preserving and passing down cultural narratives. Dr Chichi Anyiagolu-Okoye, Ford Foundation Director for West Africa, highlighted the Chimedie Museum’s role in educating and connecting communities, especially in the context of ongoing discussions about the return of African artefacts.
The book, dedicated to the late Innocent Chukwuma, a celebrated social justice activist and former Ford Foundation Representative of West Africa, is set to challenge existing art canons and raise funds for the Chimedie Museum. Published by 5 Continents Publishers in Milan, Italy, it is now available in both local and international bookstores.