Exploiting Public Art, Architecture and Urban Design for Political Power in Abuja: Modernism and the Use of Christian, Islamic and Ancestral Visual Icons


Can public art, architecture and urban design be indices of the social, economic and political struggles for hierarchies and dominance among contesting interest groups within a postcolonial society like Nigeria? In 1975, the Nigerian military proposed that building a new Federal Capital Territory at Abuja would facilitate the country’s “federal character” resolve the problem of nepotism, and ease ethnic tensions among the two hundred and fifty cultural groups which constitute the nation (Afigbo, 1986; Ajayi, 1984)1. However, a study of the architecture and the sculptures at the newly constructed National Assembly Complex suggest otherwise. In this paper, it is argued that while the ideology of a nationalist architecture and the concept of a “federal character” might have merit for a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria, at Abuja, “federal character” instead became the means with which the emergent postcolonial elite consolidated its economic and political power through the exploitation of public art, as well as Modernist architectural and urban design elements using Islamic, Christian, and Ancestral visual icons.

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Elleh, N. and Edelman, D. (2013) Exploiting Public Art, Architecture and Urban Design for Political Power in Abuja: Modernism and the Use of Christian, Islamic and Ancestral Visual Icons. Current Urban Studies, 1, 1-10. doi: 10.4236/cus.2013.11001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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