The core of my artistic practice rests on three foundational pillars. The first is an attraction to lines. I have always had a genuine fascination with lines. I think it’s interesting how the primary component of all complex forms can be ambiguously loaded with meaning. A line can connect and separate, enclose and exclude, direct and misdirect, all at the same time. To a large extent, my work is a three-dimensional manifestation of lines. I amplify their complexity by enabling them to catch pockets of light and cast subtle shadows. This becomes an avenue to tease out smaller stories within wider narratives visually. The second pillar is the seeming neutrality of paper. I view paper as a conceptual Trojan horse. It’s a basic, unassuming material that exists in the backgrounds of our lives; bland, reliable and ordinary. By making paper the visual centrepiece of my art, I encourage my audience to reconsider the material’s value and potential. This re-examination also underscores a running theme in my practice, which is that things are rarely what they appear to be.
The use of fabrics in Yoruba, Nigerian society is my third pillar. Across my practice, I use fabrics as a reference to the practice of Aso Ebi in Nigerian society. Aso Ebi, which translates to “family cloth” refers to the selection of a fabric that serves as a “uniform” worn by families and friends alike during communal ceremonies such as weddings, birthdays and funerals. It is intended to be a show of love, support and camaraderie. The practice has, however, been corrupted in contemporary times, becoming a common source of disputes when prices are excessively inflated to turn a profit and community members are unable or unwilling to acquire the fabric. My use of fabrics references how the positive can quickly mutate to take on negative connotations. It is also a visual representation of societal pressure and expectations.
I enjoy exploring themes related to gender, memory, mythology and identity. My work involves placing strips of paper on their edges to create forms. It is a rather labour-intensive process as each strip must be manually measured, manipulated and secured. I approach paper as a means of painting without pigments. The visual complexity of my art becomes a visual metaphor for the difficulty of the themes I tackle. My art is often visually playful and engaging, characterised by intricacy and bright colours. I think of the visual accessibility of my work as a “trap” of sorts. It lures an audience into engaging before revealing the darker subject matter the work deals with; a constant reminder of the fallacy of face value.
The Real Housewives of Old oyo: In creating the Real Housewives of Old Oyo, I am interested in Yoruba mythology/cosmology and how there is a marked difference between how much is known about male and female deities as well as how they are presented. I find it interesting that male deities are far more visible in contemporary popular culture. I also find it noteworthy that male deities are often presented in terms of their powers and abilities while female deities are often reduced to displays of pettiness and domestic squabbles.
As mythology is often an avenue for society to project its beliefs and core attitudes, I find these discrepancies particularly striking and worthy of exploration. It’s also a reminder of the erasure of women in history and the institutional dynamics that sustain these exemptions. I decided to lean into the ridiculousness of reducing these incredibly powerful female figures into one-dimensional caricatures and reimagine these goddesses as characters in an ongoing reality television project.
E No Concern Me: “E no concern me” is a Nigerian vernacular phrase which roughly translates to “It’s none of my concern” or “It’s not my problem”. Like many unequal societies, Nigeria can roughly be divided into a minuscule upper class, a stunted middle class and a bloated working class. This series highlights how the privileged lives of the upper and (to a smaller extent) middle class permits a large degree of detachment from the harsh realities of living and working in contemporary Nigeria.
A section of the population is cocooned in a false reality where their privilege seemingly keeps the country’s problems at bay. This false reality is symbolized by junk food, a medley of empty calories and pending health problems. The irony of junk food’s position as a “status symbol” in Nigeria due to its cost is another interesting factor that informs its presence. These pieces speak to the privilege of being in a comfortable enough position to act like society’s problems are not “ours” and do not directly affect us.
The Crown: There is a budding perspective that propounds that misogyny doesn’t exist anymore because it is often not as overt as it’s been historically; after all women (mostly) have access to education, voting and property ownership now. The Crown argues that this is a dangerous perspective to entertain as women still face numerous forms of discrimination and abuse on the basis of their gender.
The use of attractive, but ultimately flimsy and ephemeral materials to create a crown thus serves a dual purpose. It is an acknowledgement of the progress we’ve made as a society towards achieving gender equality. It’s also a reminder that we are yet to attain true equality. Yes, women have power now, but far too often, it’s still a mere semblance of power; transient, and constantly threatened.