On Painting: Nigerian Contemporary Artist Peter Uka

On Painting: Nigerian Contemporary Artist Peter Uka

My process usually starts with an idea, most of the paintings I do are bones from memories, a snippet of different parts of what I remember from my childhood back home. I left home when I was very young. I was 15 years old when I moved out. So the memory of where I come from comes back to me in bits and pieces. I start with the sketches. The sketches might end up in the final picture, or the painting might change along the way. Sometimes it comes out of stories. I could be on the phone with a friend who I know from way back when and I get a flashback and use that to create a picture.

Peter Uka, The Things I Saw Back Then

Peter Uka’s (born in 1975, Nigeria; based in Cologne, Germany) figurative paintings draws on his memories from Nigeria during his childhood.

Both his classical training in realistic figuration and images from his memory convey innate and timeless human emotion, breathing depth into dynamic portrayals. Scenes of growing up in Nigeria, including elements like afro hairstyles and bell-bottom jeans – the bright mannerisms and local customs are all captured in vibrant, visual narrative. 

Compositions also capture international trends from the late 20th century and the ways globalization connects countries around the world. These narratives uncover historical precedents of globalization and dynamic cultural signifiers connecting two countries that Uka calls home, while reminding the rest of the world of collective reciprocity, closeness, and connection.