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A Review Of ‘The Architecture of Demas Nwoko’

A Review Of ‘The Architecture of Demas Nwoko’


Demas Nwoko is a respected Nigerian artist, architect and master builder in Nigeria. Born in 1935, Nwoko’s works fuse modern techniques in architecture and stage design with African tradition. With works like The Dominican Institute, Ibadan and The Akenzua Cultural Center, Benin to his credit, Demas Nwoko is one ‘artist-architect’ who believes in celebrating the African tradition in his works. 

demas nwoko cover1 A Review Of 'The Architecture of Demas Nwoko'In 2007, Farafina published The Architecture of Demas Nwoko, a study of Nwoko’s work and theories. We have pasted below a review of The Architecture of Demas Nwoko in the African Book Publishing Record. Enjoy!


John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood

The Architecture of Demas Nwoko.

Lagos: Farafina, 2007.



This is a beautiful work demonstrating and analyzing the

contributions of Demas Nwoko, the Nigerian architect,

artist, poet and all-around person of letters. Indeed, many

books could be written discussing Nwoko’s work in a

number of artistic fields. John Godwin and Gillian Hopwood

do touch on a number of these fields and Nwoko’s

contributions to them. However, they are architects and quite

rightly they concentrate on architecture. Having spent some

time in Ibadan at the Dominican Institute, one of Nwoko’s

masterpieces, I can appreciate their enthusiasm for his work.

In fact, the Dominican Institute was his first major

architectural project. He asked the Dominicans if he could

assist them in their new building. The Dominican fathers,

whom I know well, were eager to incorporate African motifs

in their new buildings in Ibadan. Nwoko’s designs perfectly

fit their needs. Nwoko’s studies in Zaria and Paris had

prepared him well for his plan of combining African art with

modern ideas of European art. He began designing for

University of Ibadan theatrical productions. It was his new

ideas, which led to his work with the Dominicans and that

success led to his subsequent works throughout Nigeria,

including the Benin Theater. The Benin Theater uses

Japanese and Greek designs in an African setting. I would

be remiss if I did not mention his cultural centre in Ibadan

and the sceptre he designed for his brother’s coronation.

His brother is the Obi of Idumoje Ugboko.

In addition to his architecture Nwoko has many other

accomplishments in the arts. He co-published New Culture,

a leading arts magazine, pointing the way toward new

movements in African art. He led the way toward a modern

mode of expression in African art, theater, painting, and

architecture. In addition, he is a fine actor, having performed

in numerous plays in Ibadan. He also is a distinguished

professor in Ibadan.

Godwin and Hopwood manage to capture all of these

facets of Nwoko’s career while keeping the focus on his

architecture. Nwoko belongs to that generation of artists,

along with Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, who fought

for Nigerian independence artistically as well as politically.

This book has been produced to an exceptionally high

quality, with plentiful photographs. The Architecture of

Demas Nwoko is recommended for all architecture and

African Studies collections.


Frank Salamone

Iona College






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