The “New Culture” of the Nigerian Demas Nwoko, a model of monumental and sustainable architecture

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Clouds roll over the tin roofs, stretching as far as the eye can see. Built on top of a hill, New Culture Studio overlooks the city of Ibadan (population over 4 million) located 130 kilometers from the economic capital of Lagos, in southwestern Nigeria.

Inside the tall building with ocher walls, a few young people are sitting around a large table. They briefly interrupt their conversation to greet their host, 26-year-old Rufus Nwoko. “I have lived here for eleven years. the young man explains and it was living in this place that I better understood the mark left by my grandfather who built it. Architecture was for him more than a passion. He created a movement and that dream was bigger than him”, ensures.

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Demas Nwoko, born in 1935, is now enjoying a quiet retirement in his village of Idumuje-Ugboko, in Delta State. But in the 1960s, he lived and worked in Ibadan. After studying art in the city of Zaria, in northwestern Nigeria, the young man received a scholarship to fly to Paris, where he studied set design. Back in his country, he participated in the inauguration of the School of Dramatic Arts at the University of Ibadan, where he teaches.

a titanic project

But soon, “He felt the need to have his own workspaceexplains his grandson, walking through the building. It was his study, his office, his home, all at the same time. And she stayed here even when the civil war [1967-1970] began, while most of the other members of the Igbo ethnic group fled to the east” [pour rejoindre, alors, les régions sécessionnistes du Biafra].

The project is titanic. After going around the house and going up some stairs, you come to a huge amphitheater open to the sky, surrounded by steps and dominated by corridors. “It’s what he calls a modern Nigerian theatre, says Rufus Nwoko. Before the British came here with rectangular stages, our theaters were round. So he mixed these two inspirations, building a theater in a semicircle, with a stage that can contain everything, both theater, dance and music, as is the tradition here. »

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