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Celebrating Identities

An exhibition by Galerie AG18 with Taiye Erewelle (Nigeria), Leuna Noumbimboo (Cameroon), Chigozie Obi (Nigeria), Adjaratou Onedraogo (Burkina Faso), Ayanfe Olarinde (Nigeia), and Zandile Tshabalala (South Africa).

The positions of the exhibited artists show self-confident women, mostly with open eyes, demanding, challenging, powerful. They insist on self-determination, determined to reject patriarchal role assignments as well as the standardized ideals of female representation that are celebrated globally in social media. These are women who refuse to be degraded to the status of objects. They assert their personality and individuality. They decide how they live, what they want to achieve, what they need. How they present themselves and how they behave. 

On display are portraits, intimate scenes in protected privacy and public manifestations that document their claim to their own respected space. 

The themes of the positions are: Identity, i.e. subjectivity, personality, individuality, in all its facets and variations, without rigid fixation or narrowing. Without external attributions and role clichés. 

So not only does everyone has different identities, but everyone has changing, self-chosen identities, depending on the different life situations and assumed roles. Freedom of choice is required. Identity is not fixed, but fluid. It must be shaped and formed, understood in the respective cultural, social and historical context.

Striving for autonomy and freedom, shaping the present life of the future requires historical awareness, an understanding of social contexts and power structures as well as special post-colonial conditions. 

The works stimulate dialogue, show a sense of beauty, sensuality, lust, sexuality, cheerfulness and humor. Some positions show styles described as “realistic”, others touch on surrealism, dream-like scenarios or even the grotesque.

The exhibited works are narratives about the pursuit of a self-determined life. In contrast to male dominance, corrupt rule and colonial paradigms of the subjugation of black existence. The figures depicted are sensual, contemplative, sometimes provocative. But there is never anything for them to justify. They are what they are.

Zandile Tshabalala

Zandile Tshabalala’s paintings, born in Soweto, South Africa, resonate with the philosophy of Bell Hooks. In “Art on my Mind. Visual Politics,” Hooks advocates for counter-designs that challenge the objectification of the Black body. Tshabalala embraces this ethos, creating counter-hegemonic images that defy stereotypes and celebrate black female identity with self-confidence, pride and boldness.

Ayanfe Olarinde

Ayanfe Olarinde, a self-trained visual artist from Lagos/Nigeria, draws inspiration from the fluidity of identity, resonating with the postmodernist philosophy. In her exploration of self-image, identity formation, and collective history, Olarinde echoes the postmodern notion that identities are fluid, shaped by personal experiences and attitudes and societal constructs.

Chigozie Obi

Chigozie Obi’s vibrant works emphasize the representation of black women in their personal diversity and various roles and function. Her use of multiple materials and layering mirrors the complex narratives of personal and societal experiences, addressing beauty standards and the quest for self-acceptance and success. She lives and works in Lagos/Nigeria.

Adjaratou Ouedraogo

Adjaratou Ouedraogo, hailing from Togo, embodies the resilience of the human spirit. Drawing on her polygamous upbringing and traumatic separation from her mother, Ouedraogo’s paintings delve into the personal and collective history, echoing the existentialist philosophy of creating meaning from personal struggles. She lives and works in Ouagadougou/Burkina Faso.

Taiye Erewele

Taiye Erewele’s realist approach to art aligns with the existentialist philosophy, emphasizing interconnectedness and shared human experiences. Her works – she lives in Lagos – serve as narratives of ordinary Nigerian lives, challenging imposed stereotypes and highlighting the fragility of life, resonating with existential themes of existence, feminity and human connection.

Leuna Njiele Noumbimboo

Leuna Njiele Noumbimboo’s exploration of the interconnectedness of life, where the human body, nature, and animals coexist, reflects a holistic worldview reminiscent of ecological awareness. Noumbimboo’s colorful atmospheres and use of natural elements serve as an allegory for the symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature. She lives and works in Douala/Cameroon.