Books help to educate the soul, and the mere joy of learning something new often instills the will to live and create. Reading, therefore, acts as a major tool in enabling an artist’s creativity. It influences style and approach to work, often serving as the key that unlocks the artist to another world.

Most artists can cite books or random articles they have read that held great meaning for them. Not only would these books have imparted them with wisdom and generated ideas, but would also have been companions in the long and solitary days of the artist. We carry on conversations with great books over the years, and as we change, our perception of the works changes with us.

At TSA, we carried out a survey on what select Nigerian artists are reading to find out the books that inform these artists’ approach to their work, and how reading a certain book or article adds to their palette/canvas.

The resulting list includes interviews, essays, fiction, art history, general non-fiction, etc. The responses reveal a wide range of taste and suggests that the sources of creativity and inspiration for these artists are as varied as their individual styles and artistic inclinations.

Listed below are the artists and their responses:

Aderemi Adegbite (Video Art & Photography Artist)

Tuning Targets by Cemeti Art House

Stories of a Space by Mes 56

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The first two are texts on the development of artists through art collectives and art houses in Jogjakarta, while the last one is a fictional literature that keeps me in touch with the discourse in and about my society”.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Rom Isichei  (Painter & Mixed Media Artist)

Contemporary Art, from ‘A very Short Introduction’ series published by Oxford university press.

“When I’m not moping, ideating, conceptualizing, doodling, making sketches, or just making art in my studio, I do find time to read -mostly- art and art related books, art magazines, journals, blogs (inclusive ‘The Sole Adventurer’) among many others. I am also reading Julian Stallabrass.”

Jumoke Sanwo (Photographer)

The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

D. O Fagunwa’s The Forest of a Thousand Daemons by Wole Soyinka.

“My choice of books varies and depends on what I am working on at that time”.

Uche Okpa-Iroha (Photographer & Founder of The Nlele Institute)

The life of George Bernard Shaw.

“I basically read whatever interests me. I read forbes magazine and general interesting articles. I like to read “Art and Thought” which I always get from the Goethe Institut Nigeria. Above all I read and study my BIBLE daily”.

Wura Ogunji-Natasha (Performance Artist)

Most of the reading I’m doing currently is artist interviews: These include filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety’s discussion with N. Frank Ukadike as well as artist Youmna Chlala’s interview with Fawz Kabra.

“As a visual artist the ‘reading’ always includes a lot of looking.  I keep returning to the work of  the artists above as well as: Antoni Tapies, Ana Mendieta, Felix Gonzalez Torres, Wong Kar Wai, Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark.”

Taiye Idahor (Sculptor)

Culture Game by Olu Oguibe

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Ai WeiWei speaks with Hans Ulrich Obrist.

“I mostly read art news and commentaries online wherever I can find them. I look forward to reading “Postcolonial Modernism by Chika Okeke-Agulu” I have ordered it but it is yet to arrive.”

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

Victor Ehikamenor (Painter, Writer, Photographer)

My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic by Charles Saatchi

Ake, The Years Of Childhood by Wole Soyinka

“The first book because it is on the shelf where I am at a residency now and thought it would broaden my knowledge on Charles Saatchi though it is a quick read. I’m reading Ake because I working on something along that line, writing about my childhood. I read everything, from financial magazines, literary books and magazine, interior decor, art history to art magazine to science. As an artist or writer, you should be informed to a large extent, you can’t know everything.”

Abraham Oghobase (Photographer)

Textbook of Rand Metallurgical Practice. Published – 1912

The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa by LORD LUGARD Fifth edition published in 1965

“I am reading these two books and exploring the idea of colonial rule & exploitation in Nigeria and African cities at the moment. The first book was designed as a “working tool” and practical guide for metallurgist upon the Witwatersrand and other similar fields, also included is about 128 illustrations.”

Ngozi Schommers (Painter & Mixed Media Artist) 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I Do Not Come To You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

The Progress of Love: A catalogue/book of a group exhibition, a collaboration project by CCA Lagos and The Menil collection, Houston.

“The first two books are very interesting and hilarious. I love the way both authors construct their stories. These books make a good travel companion and bedside read. 

“I usually visit CCA Lagos and go through their books and take down the details of books that interest me and order them later and sometimes get it from them if they have it. The Progress of Love, which I’m reading right now, is very inspiring and engaging. I have got some other ones that I will order as soon I get back to Germany. I also visit Jazzhole, they have amazing books too.”

Featured Image : Yinka Shonibare, Boy Balancing Knowledge, 2015. Courtesy