JOBURG ART FAIR 2013
SEPTEMBER 27-29, 2013
From September 27 to 29, Omenka Gallery will present the exhibition Matter as Metaphor, at the 6th Joburg Art Fair featuring the works of two leading contemporary artists from Nigeria; Nnenna Okore, and Adejoke Tugbiyele. The artists are drawn together by their open approach to form and media, seen in their use of everyday materials, found objects and mixed techniques inspired by the African continent’s stylistic traditions of abstraction, psychological expressiveness, and symbolic representation.
Textures, forms and colours of organic materials such as clay and wax, or discarded materials like newspaper, paper bags, recycled cardboard boxes and rope, inspire Nnenna Okore’s installations, which speak about critical issues such as ecosystems and engage the cultures of consumption and recycling in Nigeria. Her work aims to re-connect her materials to their original sources- including Nature. Discovering reusable value in these found objects, she enriches her work with several layers of meaning through the repetitive, laborious and unconventional processes of weaving, sewing, rolling, twisting and dyeing. These practices observed from villagers performing their daily tasks, at once lend to the highly evocative nature and unpredictability of her output.
Much of Okore’s recent work, a few examples presented here involves deconstruction – fraying and ripping to generate forms that reveal layers of history. Historian, Gerard Houghton suggests that many of the works symbolize transition in reference to life’s processes of ageing and dying, or decay and decomposition.
Adejoke Tugbiyele’s installations are metaphors for Nigeria’s social and political history. She employs a variety of unconventional materials and traditional and non-traditional methods in capturing Nigeria’s reactions to changes within the larger global economy. She systematically deconstructs and reconstructs her media to yield subtle transformations of visual complexities.
Among the display is Tugbiyele’s series of works, ‘Moskito Ministry’, a metaphor for man’s thirst for materialism, where the service provided by these blood-sucking pests is to transmit extremely harmful human and livestock diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and filariasis. Using African beads, tropical nuts and copper wire to construct the small, midge-like flies feasting on hundred naira bills, she criticizes several corrupt leaders and politicians who in servitude, line their pockets and leave in their wake, impoverished masses.
Her work Water Go Find Enemy is influenced by Fela Kuti’s song Water No Get Enemy. Hugely popular in Nigeria in the late 70s, the late Afrobeat legend sings about water as a source of life and its indispensable qualities. In disagreement, Tugbiyele’s urgency of purpose is clearly evident as she warns about self-preservation.
Normally, perforated metal drains are designed to sift our impure particles in water as the first line of defence against pollution and disease in the sewage system. Similarly, brooms are meant for keeping a place clean. I am taking this as a metaphor to talk about the things in Africa that we need to defend-our water, human rights and culture.
The exhibition thus offers both artists a platform for the exchange of ideas that are politically relevant and socially engaging. Through their lens and unique perspective on global issues, we can deepen our understanding and partake in a universal conversation. The works presented are manipulated largely by hand, alluding to the traditional African way of ‘making’ in contrast to the mechanized or technological processes of the West. They are also concerned with ongoing struggles for more humane societies and address both everyday realities and profound philosophical concepts.
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High-resolution images and more information on the artists are available on request.