The Symbolism of Nsibidi

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Article Published: Mar. 28, 2013 | Modified: Apr. 5, 2013
The Symbolism of Nsibidi

Artist Victor Ekpuk stands before one of his works, ‘Composition #1.’ Ekpuk will present a live drawing performance at ASU’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone April 3 and 4.
Image courtesy of Victor Ekpuk

“Nsibidi” is the philosophy where sign systems are used to convey ideas.

Nigerian artist Victor Ekpuk uses symbols from the traditional African writing system, such as nsibidi, along with designs he coins and others he’s gathered from the world around him to create his artwork.

The script that results from this is meant to create a feeling and understanding of the human experience. One symbol in a painting or drawing can represent a concept and make a statement; many symbols can form a narrative about life in the contemporary world.

Ekpuk will be holding a two-day drawing performance in the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts’ Mayer Gallery April 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a break between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. All visitors are welcome to stop by anytime during these hours to watch him in the gallery.

His exhibition, "Drawing Memories," opens at the Turchin Center on April 5 during the Spring Exhibition Celebration being held from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information on the opening, visit

About Victor Ekpuk

Ekpuk holds a BFA from the University of Ife in Nigeria and was an illustrator for several years at a major Nigerian newspaper.

While he began with an exploration of “traditional symbols,” his work has evolved to embrace a wider spectrum of meaning that is equally rooted in African and global contemporary art. The subject matter of Ekpuk’s art deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity.

His works have been featured at the first Johannesburg Biennale in South Africa; Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; New Museum in New York; Newark Museum, New Jersey; Yerba Buena Art Center, San Francisco; Barbican Gallery, London; Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles; and the World Bank, Washington, D.C., among others.

Currently, Ekpuk works from his studio in Washington, D.C., and some of his artworks are in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Newark Museum, the World Bank and private collections.

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