The Abayomi Barber School Theory and Debunking the Myth of the Naive and Crude Authentic African Art

A lot of us imagine that creativity and brilliance just appear out of nowhere, the fruit of natural talent that needs no interference. In relation to African art, I agree with those who say that art thus made gives the wrong impressions to outsiders about the African intelligence and artistic capabilities, and that it has helped perpetuate the stereotypes and prejudices that genuine African art is primitive.

Following a discussion with some friends on the above, I sought to articulate what I think of identity of the African artist, and the difference between the ‘self-taught’ artist and the ‘instant’ artist, which is removed from formal western education, but has to do with perfecting your art or craft—as seen in the art of the Fakeyes.

Fortuitously, during an unrelated research, I stumbled on a paper, The Crisis of Appropriating Identity for African Art and Artists: The Abayomi Barber School Responsorial Paradigm, by Dr. Odiboh Freeborn, a professor of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Benin. Enlightening and thought-provoking, the dissertation touches on the points raised above and some other issues of perceived norms for African artists.

Caution, this paper may lead to time consuming soul-searching.

Adekemi is a lawyer and writer with a passion for the arts, particularly African art history. She is dedicated to discovering and documenting the most excellent artworks of our time. Follow her on Twitter at adekemitweets.


  1. Artstrings
    2nd July 2018

    Thank you for the kind words, sir. It’s an honour to have you follow my blog.

  2. Freeborn Odiboh
    1st July 2018

    I am quite impressed that there still inquisitive young scholars who’d like to do in_depth studies. The writer of this little piece of Critical observation Adekemi proves to be one. I am the writer of the article on the ‘Crisis of Appropriating. ……’. Adekemi, keep doing the good work!

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