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This past week I had the rare privilege to attend an exhibition titled A Haiku and Tanka Exhibition for WE DEM (Nigerians in the homeland) curated by the edgy and forward-thinking Tribe XX Lab. Elita, Emalohi Iruobe, Etopima Umanah, Yewande Oyeniyi, Tolu Oyewale, Olamidotun Oshilaja and Oluwaseni Akinyemi were the young creatives presented with the opportunity to showcase their distinctive artworks which represent each artist’s unique creative techniques. The exhibition brought together these gifted artists offering them a non-judgemental platform for their artistic abilities.
One of the talented creatives whose work gave off a certain aesthetic appeal was Etopima Umanah (Eto afterwards). The vibrant colors used in her paintings were striking and accentuated her remarkable painting style. Artists all over the world usually have a particular style – a signature to their creative process which makes it unlike any other artist’s work. For Eto, her paintings depict and focus unabashedly on women unembellished, warts and all.
Where words cannot do justice to express bottled emotions, we begin to look for other outlets to release these pent-up emotions and art easily takes the win for being the most illustrative outlet. Eto’s paintings convey an unromanticized version of femininity, showcasing women in the realistic limelight which is perceived as offbrand in society. The idea of women engaging in criminal activities or being vile in general is seen as out of character as opposed to a woman who is prim and proper with no initiative to do evil.
Eto’s paintings suggest that criminal acts and negative behavior are not gender-specific as criminality is a general human trait. The memo passed here is indeed powerful. It may, of course, trigger some negative sentiments from an art industry which has been known to frown upon paintings with unconventional portrayals of feminism. Eto shed some light on her perceived unfair treatment of women and their work in the creative industry saying, “The art industry marginalizes women, it is a systemic form of exclusion that can’t be fixed by putting on a few shows.” She believes this has posed a barrier for young women like herself whose artistic contributions are sometimes devalued. Despite the obstacles faced, Eto consistently delivers gratifying paintings that elucidate raw feminism, and clear the doubts in the hearts of women on whether they fit the standards to be classified as feminine. Being fixated on her goal to be included in at least 20 group shows and 4 solo shows has given her the drive to overcome these hindrances. She also wishes to have a museum exhibition of her works and to have them sold at secondary markets before age 30. Look up etothakilla on Instagram to see more of Eto’s impressive paintings
The beautiful pieces exhibited at the show relay that these young artists possess artistic intelligence, the artworks were tacitly composed with the right use of colors and textures to capture the perfect tone of the painting, Oluwaseni Akinyemi displayed this in the ethereal painting of the ” Time Keeper”. Using warm pastel colors which were somewhat soothing, as the timekeeper sits under a mix of dark blue clouds and surrounded by a lush garden, the painting takes a dreamy tone which would serenade any audience.
Seni felt inspired by the works of artists he admired, one of which is Tayo Quaye and that motivates him to create art that leaves a lasting impression on other creatives. For Seni his creative process begins from a single idea which he pulls from materials and images within his environment, an ordinary conversation could birth ideas that would lead to creating the perfect piece. According to him, the idea for his Vitiligo Beauty painting was sprung from a conversation with some friends about skin conditions and the rarity of paintings showcasing vitiligo – a skin condition that is commonplace in our climes. People with such skin conditions are not usually portrayed upfront in the art world and Seni felt the need to right this wrong. Check out oluwaseniakinyemi on Instagram for more of his paintings.
Much gratitude to Tribe XX Lab for hosting this event where I encountered the two art geniuses featured in this article. As well as creating a platform for the youths to project their views, the exhibition is an art window into the thoughts and life of a zoomer. The exhibition runs through June 30 so please visit the YMCA building at Ikoyi to witness the works of these young creatives.
Venue: YMCA, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos
Date: June 19-30, 2021
Ticket Price: Free.