Skip to Content
Print of a figure bearing a cross, falling to the ground.

Bruce Onobrakpeya: The Mask and the Cross

November 1, 2022 | Lauren Tate Baeza

Opens April 7 

Sculptor and printmaker Bruce Onobrakpeya (born 1932) is one of the fathers of African modernism and a founding member of the Zaria Art Society—an art collective that developed the natural synthesis aesthetic that came to define early postcolonial Nigerian art. “The Mask and the Cross” describes the artist’s creative phase from 1967 through 1978, during which he created numerous works marrying Nigerian tradition, folklore, and cosmology with Catholic motifs and stories from the Bible. This period was launched by the creation of a series commissioned by the Catholic Church titled Fourteen Stations of the Cross, which depicts scenes from the last earthly day of Jesus Christ. The artist portrays Biblical characters as Nigerian and reimagines Biblical scenes in Nigerian settings. Bruce Onobrakpeya: The Mask and the Cross will consider religious “double belonging” as an exercise in agency, subversion, and cultural resilience. Grounded in the High’s own edition of Onobrakpeya’s Fourteen Stations of the Cross prints, the exhibition will showcase other works from this period as well as examples from later periods, as themes of religious and cultural hybridity and multiplicity continue to reappear throughout the artist’s sixty-year career.

Top: Bruce Onobrakpeya (Nigerian, born 1932), Station VII: Jesus falls the second time (detail), 1969, linoleum block print on rice paper, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Mr. George A. Naifeh, 2006.228.7. © Bruce Onobrakpeya. 

Print of a figure carrying a large cross walking while two other figures hold him and reach for his clothes.

Bruce Onobrakpeya (Nigerian, born 1932), Station X: They strip Jesus of his garments, 1969, linoleum block print on rice paper, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Mr. George A. Naifeh, 2006.228.10. © Bruce Onobrakpeya.

Print of a figure on a cross with two other figures on either side.

Bruce Onobrakpeya (Nigerian, born 1932), Station XII: They raise Jesus on the cross, 1969, linoleum block print on rice paper, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of Mr. George A. Naifeh, 2006.228.12. © Bruce Onobrakpeya.

Bruce Onobrakpeya: The Mask and the Cross is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. 

Delta Air Lines, Inc.

ACT Foundation, Inc.
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Harry Norman Realtors
wish foundation

Robin and Hilton Howell

The Antinori Foundation
Corporate Environments
The Arthur R. and Ruth D. Lautz Charitable Foundation
Elizabeth and Chris Willett

Farideh and Al Azadi
Sandra and Dan Baldwin
Mr. and Mrs. Robin E. Delmer
Marcia and John Donnell
Mrs. Peggy Foreman
Helen C. Griffith
Mrs. Fay S. Howell/The Howell Fund
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Joel Knox and Joan Marmo
Dr. Joe B. Massey
Margot and Danny McCaul
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Wade A. Rakes II & Nicholas Miller
The Fred and Rita Richman Fund
USI Insurance Services
Mrs. Harriet H. Warren

Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund
Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund
Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund
Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund
Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund
The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund
Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund
Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund
John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund
Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund
Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund
RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund