Firing the Phalluses: Rites of Passage in May Okafor’s Royal Gorgeousness

May Okafor is a contemporary Nigerian ceramist whose works proclaim, and rightly so, the centeredness of clay as a filtering medium in the deconstruction/reconstruction of life experiences. She is a member of faculty in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she also trained and holds BA and MA degrees in Ceramic Art and Art History, respectively. Presently, May Okafor lives in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where she is enrolled in a studio-based PhD in Visual Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Her rising profile in the ceramics art circuit in Nigeria mirrors the footsteps of other Nsukka art school trained ceramics artists like Chike Ebebe, Chris Echeta, Ozioma Onuzulike, Caius Onu and Ngozi Omeje whose conceptual investigations into the versatility and expressivity of clay have played important roles in making ceramic art acquire the spirit of avant-garde modernism in the Nigerian contemporary art space. Tangibility of forms holds special interest for May Okafor because of their tactile nature and ability to evoke feelings through touch. Her immediate environment offers a rich throve of ideas, materials and forms through which she addresses, redresses and interrogates contemporary issues. May Okafor’s constant dialogue with her immediate environment, which is a critical component of her art practice, is not unconnected to her art training in the Art Department of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The creative ideology of the Art Department emphasises an intellectual approach to art production through a sustained culture of experimentation and exploration. For most Nsukka artists, material and cultural environments provide the resources, as well as the altar on which this creative ritual assumes corporeal form and soulful essence.