Nigeria’s first female bronze sculptor – Elizabeth Olowu


Today we celebrate Nigeria’s first female sculptor, Princess Elizabeth Olowu, granddaughter of Oba Akenzua II of Benin and mother of Assosiate Professor of Art history, University of Lagos, Dr. Peju Layiwola


Born on 25 October 1939 (and not in 1945 as some have wrongly assumed) to Oba Akenzua II of Benin Kingdom, she attended the Federal Emergency Science School and Holy Child College, Lagos. She began a course at the University of Nigeria Nsukka but stopped because of the Nigerian civil war. She later finished her education with the University of Benin with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts in 1973. She was one of the pioneer (and only female) students in her department at that time.

When she was 18, she married her high school friend, Babatunde Olowu.

A couple of her awards/accomplishments are below

  • She was the first female bronze sculptor
  • She was the first female Master of Fine Arts after her post graduate work on “An investigation into the Benin Cire Perdue Casting Technique.
  • She also received the Bendel State Award for Art and Culture

A couple of texts have been written about her such as

  • Gender tempered through metal: women in metal-casting in Benin city, Nigeria – Peju Layiwola
  • “Princess Elizabeth Olowu, Nigerian Sculpture” (1987) – Betty LaDuke
  • Africa and her diaspora: three female artists in contemporary perspective – Peju Layiwola
  • Late 20th century bronzes and ivories in Benin city, Nigeria – Barbara Winston Blackmun
  • Women sculptors in Nigeria: an intense look at Princess Elizabath U. A. Olowu, Ndidi Dike and Veronica Otigbo – Efemena I. Ononeme

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Though no longer casting because of her advanced age, the princess has taken to other ventures. She is now a costumier for the preservation of the rich Benin cultural heritage. “Our Benin tradition is dying. There’s too much foreign culture, languages and religion of subjugation” she lamented.


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