Augustin Okoye had a small studio for sign painting in a town in south-western Nigeria. There he was discovered by Ulli Beier, who was enthusiastic about the imaginative and colourful wooden signs. Okoye gave himself the name Middle Art as his artist's name. There are several of his works in the Iwalewa House. They tell of personalities and everyday events. Some paintings also tell of the terrible war experiences Augustin Okoye had to go through as a soldier.
In the painting we meet a successful businessman and politician. He faces the viewer in a pinstripe suit, his white shirt buttoned up and with an accurate tie knot. A handkerchief in the left breast pocket of his jacket, his left hand casually in his trouser pocket, his raised right hand appears to be resting on the left picture frame. Mr Nwobodo is a man in his early 40s and he has made it. The gesture he makes with his right hand is meant to emphasise this: The thumb points upwards, the other fingers are closed. OK, I have everything under control - that is what this picture is supposed to convey to us.
Mr Nwobodo is standing opposite us. He directs his professional smile with his eyes towards an imaginary counterpart to the right of the viewer. The portrait of high-ranking politicians is one of the oldest traditional forms of representation in the visual arts. In the portrait of a ruler, different characteristics can be emphasised. Power, superiority, strength, creative will, intransigence, wealth, divinity - pictorial formulas were developed for all of these. The raised thumb is a fairly recent development. Some of today's politicians make extensive use of this gesture.
Jim Nwobodo had every reason to be optimistic when the picture was painted. At just 40, he can look back on a career full of riches and political glory. As governor of Anambra State, he held office for four years. A military coup in 1983 also meant the temporary end of Nwobodo's rise with dramatic consequences. However, he remained in politics and, among other things, ran unsuccessfully as a presidential candidate in Nigeria in 2003.