Her Story at Rele Gallery
By Christopher Ian Lutz @christopher_ian_lutz
Rele Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria is currently showing Her Story, an exhibition comprised of five female artists that contributes to the developing narrative of women, as both an individual experience and a social concept. Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Oluchi Zọtam, Queen Nwaneri, Buki M. Animashaun, and Haneefah Adam each voice their female experience through art to communicate a response to the social and political circumstances that women live in, as well as to deepen their and our understanding of Women from a woman’s point of view.
Throughout humankind’s known history there has been a narrative developing concerning the relationship between men and women, the male and the female, the masculine and the feminine—and if you think those three are the same thing a queer/gender theorist would argue otherwise. In fact, queer or gender theory deconstructs society, religion, government, language, and nearly every social institution constructed by society through examining the careful psychological engineering of gender in a given society. Gender permeates literally every aspect of the universe in terms of how we categorize the systems of nature and the mechanics of technology and society. Even car engines have male and female parts.
Every society and cultural tradition has their reasons for gender categorization in order to create civilization. Unfortunately, as history and modern times has proven, civilization is not necessary equal. Yet, in our modern times we are witnessing what appears to be an unprecedented era of cultural change through the international women’s rights movement. The silver lining in the antediluvian storm cloud of social injustice is that we are currently living in times when women are actively reclaiming their power and enacting social change.
Her Story opens a dialogue of the multifaceted issues and perspectives of the feminine, of the female, of Women.
Oluchi Zotam captures the beauty of the feminine element in her vibrant photographs of nature. The phenomenon of humans is that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone. As the natural landscape around the world is also changing through industrialization, for many in the future Mother Nature might only be experienced in books. Such works like Oluchi Zotam’s Preservation and Passion capture that spirit of nature, which is the spirit of the feminine energy.
Queen Nwaneri’s abstract paintings for Her Story depict female faceless forms with titles such as I Am A Woman and Listen. An interesting reaction to abstract expressionist painting is that one cannot reduce it by means of form. A realist depiction of a woman can easily be categorized by the culture, time period, and social status of the woman, and thereby the depiction might only be analyzed on a surface level. Nwaneri’s female forms guide one to the realm of the feminine, however the abstraction within those forms also incites a cognitive and emotional connection with the feminine.
Haneefah Adam’s watercolor and embroidery paintings have a narrative that expresses the process that can be interpreted on several levels, perhaps of taking back one’s power or the process of manifestation. The four paintings Encrust, Bloom, Emanate, and Sovereignty reveal a process of liberation and empowerment. Beginning with Encrust, a state in which one is covered or concealed, to Bloom, a state after one has pierced the surface and begins to experience the unfolding of identity, through which they can then Emanate their identity freely in an environment of Sovereignty. This natural process that can easily be associated with the life of a flower connects the natural process of the feminine energy within nature.
In Buki M. Animashaun’s paintings a theme of communication is expressed in such works as Face Me I Face You or Stop Shouting. This theme compliments the exhibition Her Story as a means of inspiring or igniting conversation. When art addresses social issues such as women’s rights it can be misinterpreted as an accusation rather than an opportunity to establish a healthy dialogue. An interesting detail of this series by Animashaun is the symmetry, asymmetry, and crossing of lines within fields of color and shapes. The works are almost archetypal, relating on a level psychological and emotional terms.
Ayobola Kekere-Ekun’s mixed media works are attractive and vivid, yet the imagery and the titles, such as Eyes Wide Shut and Sitting Pretty…Keep Mum, addresses the silence and invisibility that many women’s voices and presence have in society. The social context of Kekere-Ekun’s works shows a society that places roles in which the female is expected to submit and accept, where the volume of her voice is controlled.
Her Story will be on view until March 24th, 2017, at 5 Military St, Onikan Environ, Lagos, Nigeria. There is also a special feature by artist Ngozi Schommers.