Skip to content
African Arts | Hidden Elements: Victor Ekpuk's Illustrations for the Daily Times of Nigeria

By Janine A. Sytsma

African Arts, Winter 2021, Vol. 54, No. 4, pg. 38-51

Ekpuk’s scribbling from the mid-1990s similarly oscillates between transparency and secrecy. Some signs may be familiar to those with a basic knowledge of nsibidi, other African ideographic systems, Nigerian current affairs, and global popular culture, while others come tantalizingly close but ultimately refuse to reveal themselves and supply any specific meaning to the narrative. Indeed, even those examples with clear reference points may possess additional content known only to Ekpuk. In his scribbling-based illustrations, the combination of scripts with different levels of opaqueness accordingly generates characteristically expansive and generative analyses. The more recognizable scripts, interspersed throughout the composition, serve as signposts for discourse, revealing potential deviations from the article’s position and, according to Ekpuk (Kreamer and Purura 2007: 234), helping “to unlock the deeper layers of each composition.” The remaining signs then build on the identifiable examples and facilitate continued nonstructured contemplation of both the article along and interconnected issues, only alluded to in the text. When the illustration is experienced holistically, as Ekpuk intended, the commentary steadily accumulates, with each new layer forming connections with previous layers to generate new interrelated interpretations. (pg. 46-47)