The works of Demas Nwoko
Updated: May 30
New Culture Studio, Ibadan
I didn’t learn about Demas Nwoko till quite recently. I was in Ibadan a few weeks ago and we had just finished exploring Bowers tower. We were on our way back home when my friend said he knew an interesting auditorium in Mokola and we should check out.
Who is Demas Nwoko?
Demas Nwoko is a painter, a sculptor, architect and designer and is a leading pioneer of the Nigerian modern art movement. He has been a member of the artist group "The Zaria Art Society" and was an active member of the Mbari club of Ibadan in the 50's and 60's. As an architect, he is known for fusing new building techniques and ideas with localised materials and practices - an interesting blend of old and new. He is especially famous for his work with stage designs and we would be exploring one of the theatres!
The theatre is stunning. It rests on elevated land and its copper coloured bricks stick out against the clear sky. It is built into the side of the hill in the most clever manner and this amplifies the space and visual appeal of it. The outside is made from a mixture of clay bricks, concrete and stone with intricacies that could only be achieved by a master architect.
Our guide was a bit late so that gave us time to look around the outside. It was obvious that Nwoko was a man of detail. I particularly liked the attention he placed on airflow throughout the building. The holes in the walls allow air to freely pass through the building, and this prevents moisture buildup while keeping the building cool - this I noticed later when we got in.
The amphitheatre is a huge semi-circular structure with rows of seating tiers surrounding the stage. The cascading seats give viewers a clear view of whatever entertainment is being shown but more importantly amplifies and cleans up the acoustics. I'll spare you guys the science stuff, but it allows even the people in the back rows to hear the performance clearly, down to the last pin drop.
As I mentioned earlier, Nwoko's focus was localised materials and so a lot of stone is used in the structure. This rough texture reminded me of a different time, a time when ancient gladiators would battle to the death, to the pleasure of a cheering crowd (I watched too much Spartacus). Conversely, the sunlight hitting the stone created a warmth that made you feel at ease, there's just something about earth tones that bring a sense of comfort.
I’d lived in this city for more than a decade and when I look back at this visit, it shocks me that this place is 5 minutes away from the house I grew up in. Right now the structure is currently under renovations but it is open to the public when there are events. However, you can schedule a tour or book the spaces for events. You can reach them on +234 816 093 4459 or check out their Instagram page HERE.
This post is titled “The works of Demas Nwoko” because I intend to explore his other projects and keep growing it, so make sure you bookmark this page. Also why don't you share this page with someone who might enjoy it?