From April 29, 2023 to May 26, 2023, kó Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria, presents the group exhibition “Lean On Me”. This presentation, curated by Brice Arsène Yonkeu, explores transnational connections in postcolonial Africa and interpersonal relationships through the eyes of six contemporary artists.
Collins Obijiaku, Sesse Elangwe, Yagazie Emezi, Elladj Lincy Deloumeaux, Stephen Price and Turiya Magadlela are the accomplished artists whose work will be on show at “Lean On Me“. Through their work, these artists make a clear contribution to the visualization and communication of art as a tool for symbiosis and transcription between individuals and history. Indeed, this exhibition aims to establish and reinforce the role of art in the interconnection between peoples and the long-term sharing of history.
“Lean On Me” comes from a poem written by the gallery’s curator, and reveals a visual representation and artistic continuity of the post-colonial ideals nurtured by African writers and thinkers such as Achille Mbembe, Leonora Miano and Chinua Achebe. Initially, the exhibition brings together the works of Yagazie Emezi, Turiya Magadlela and Stephen Price, taking into account the singularity of their approach to the construction of identity in postcolonial Africa.
Yagazie Emezi’s work contributes to this contemporary discourse through the photographs in her “Wayward” series. A series that ventures into the complexities of Igbo cosmology and ontology, focusing on the coexistence between the spiritual and physical worlds in which we evolve, and questioning the different scenarios that might occur when man disconnects from his personal divinity. In communion with his chi, the spiritual force linked to his existence and which resides within him according to Igbo cosmology and ontology, Yagazie Emezi journeys through the many strata of the spiritual universe with the help of recursive self-portraits. The friction between imported religion and indigenous belief, and coexistence in post-colonial Africa, are contemporary polemics highlighted by artist Yagazie Emezi.
Drawing on her own experiences as a woman living in South Africa, Turiya Magadlela creates abstract works using tapestry-like textiles mounted in mosaics, or pantyhose stretched over asymmetrically shaped tension rods that serve as projections for visitors, enabling them to question their status quo and observe its effects in a distinct way. She embroiders, manipulates and sews all manner of found textiles, such as stockings and tights, to explore themes of identity, gender and race.
Stephen Price‘s work, three life-size nude portraits created from dry pastels on canvas, charcoal and acrylic, are exhibited opposite works by Turiya Magadlela. Inspired by Edvard Munch’s painting “Youth” and guided by art critic John Berger‘s assertion that “to be naked is to be yourself… to be naked is to be without disguise”, Stephen Price’s paintings communicate the sincerity and vulnerability of the human person. For added humanity, the figures painted by the artist are depicted standing in front of an abstract landscape, an angle that draws sympathy from viewers.
The second part of the “Lean On Me” exhibition features works by Elladj Lincy Deloumeaux, Sesse Elangwe and Collins Obijiaku. The portraits by these three contemporary artists convey a sense of new awareness and pride in identity. With this in mind, Elladj Lincy Deloumeaux immerses us in a pictorial fiction in which the narratives of a personal history and the chronicles of a plural world collide.
The subjects depicted in Sesse Elangwe’s work are women in picturesque outdoor settings, highlighted by dark, hyper-pigmented skin and colorful, braided natural hair. These portraits reveal a certain self-acceptance and a desire to be seen as we are, regardless of our earthly frame of reference. Her work is thought-provoking, as is that of Collins Obijiaku, who creates a precise, highly realistic representation of a woman wearing red lipstick. Collins Obijiaku imbues his work with a dismaying vitality, thanks to intricate patterns created from fine charcoal lines. The figure painted by our contemporary artist looks confident and victorious to all visitors who dare to admire it.