Featuring exclusively new works by the Nigerian contemporary artist, artist Tonia Nneji‘s first exhibition « You May Enter » is a continuation of her persistent engagement with torment, injury and the female body.
Drawing on encounters, experiences identified with polycystic ovarian disorder, the disease that causes an imbalance of hormones in women of reproductive age, and more recently fibroids, Tonia Nneji‘s work is both a salutation and a willingness to confront a custom of silence and disgrace.
In this exhibition « You May Enter », Tonia Nneji‘s brilliantly colored canvases undermine the usual thoughts of agony and hurt by transforming them into quiet, somber melancholic scenes, reflecting her belief that misery doesn’t have to be high contrast or dark and brown. She presents her female subjects in various positions of weakness.
From figures nestled in a fetal situation to figures bundled up in someone else’s arms, she investigates these positions the body takes in its arrangement of agony and the significance of places of refuge and emotional support as impulses to heal.
Her use of fabric hung around the figures references her study of draperies as elements of covering and security, as well as their financial and strict particularities in contemporary Nigerian culture. Textures are also important in chronicling her frustration through different methods of therapy, from current wellness facilities to other less standard and stricter options.
Investigating the important minutes of her excursion, « You May Enter » is a welcome into a world of injury and repair, containment and friendship, creating a space for discourse and solidarity. With this exhibition, Tonia Nneji seems to ask: What does torment look like? How might we begin a healing interaction? Also, should we continue to intensify discussions that focus on women’s voices and issues?
Who is Tonia Nneji?
Born in Imo State, Nigeria, contemporary Nigerian artist, Tonia Nneji comes from a long line of sculptors and mask bearers.
Known for her use of intense tones and intricate patterns, Tonia Nneji‘s work explores the connection between injury and the female body. Drawing on her involvement with individual medical issues, she confronts a culture of concealment and silence around issues of women’s physical and psychological well-being, substantial independence, and inappropriate behavior, with the firm intention of creating places of refuge where discussions can be held without inhibition.
Her new artistic creations show women’s bodies in different phases of development, hung in brilliant textures and exceptionally printed point by point. This preoccupation for her explores the social implications and contemporary African social orders, while examining the defensive characteristics of clothing.
Tonia Nneji‘s work has been highlighted in publications such as Nation Newspaper, Vanguard, and the Guardian, and in 2017, she was praised on BBC Africa on World Women’s Day. In addition, her work was also unveiled by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie in her essay The New Guard.
In 2018, Tonia Nneji was awarded the Ronke Ekwensi Fellowship and was featured at FNB Art Joburg in South Africa and Miami Art Basel in Florida, USA in 2019.
Tonia Nneji was also among the artists selected for the Art Dubai Residency program, coordinated by Kabelo Malatsie.