From 4 – 7 November, DADA Gallery will be presenting a Pan-African display at the Art X Lagos art fair. The presentation centres on the diverse perspectives of four artists, addressing common themes of cultural identity and current socio-political issues across Africa and the diaspora.
As well as the gallery’s physical fair, it will also run digitally until November 21st
DADA Gallery presents works by Nigerian artist Bunmi Agusto and Senegalese artist Djibril Drame, as well as two new emerging contemporary artists who have recently joined the gallery’s roster: Ivorian artist Nuits Balnéaires and Ethiopian artist Natnael Ashebir.
The works of Agusto and Balnéaires both depict surreal scenes that reference African tradition and cultural iconography – raising important questions of how culture informs identity and the importance of cultural customs to a sense of communal unity. Djibril Drame and Natnael Ashebir’s works aim to tackle issues such as the appropriation of African traditions and urbanisation.
DADA Gallery, based in Nigeria and the UK, is committed to amplifying the voices of the most exciting emerging artists from Africa and the diaspora, who are tackling important themes such as youth, identity, sexuality, cultural and socio-economic issues.
Addressing such themes of African identity, Bumni Agusto’s pastel pencil on sandpaper works explore how cultural experiences shape one’s identity and sense of self. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Augusto moved to London at the age of sixteen and her work expresses the sense of alienation experienced in her life between these two lands through metaphors of hybridity. Agusto illustrates the concept of cultural hybridity through the surreal inhabitants of a fantastical world of her own creation.
Through the medium of photography, Djibril Drame also utilises visual metaphors to reference specific African cultures and traditions while examining the relationship between an individual and their culture. In Drame’s Dead Man Walking series, a Togolese rapper and other pop culture talents pose in front of historic buildings built by settlers, wearing clothing and masks of significance to the religion of Sufism. The series explores imitations of the past and the issue of the gentrification of sacred practice. The work seeks to bring attention to the importance of tradition and maintaining its integrity.
Similarly exploring the power of historical tradition through a series of photographic works is Nuits Balnéaires. Illustrating the 7 great families of the N’zima Kotokô tribe of Grand-Bassam, Balnéaires’ series The Power of Alliances, sheds light on the foundation of a solid social structure that has spanned several centuries in the region. The series proposes a dialogue on the importance of the values of unity, solidarity and sharing in a country that is slowly recovering from the wounds inherited from decades of political instability.
Looking to culture, history and social values to address political contention is Natnael Ashebir. In acrylic paint on canvas, Ashebir addresses social structures, urbanisation and individualism through his painting series titled, Layers of Life. Inspired by the ancient Japanese philosophy of Kintsugi (golden rejoining), Ashebir utilises an abstract and spontaneous painting technique to embrace the flaws and imperfections of a chaotic life. In applying this technique, he emphasises the conceptual need to accept change in today’s world, admit errors and foster a relationship based on mutual understanding. Through this process of layering the artist makes systems of urbanisation tangible and invites viewers to consider how individualism and urbanisation influence our daily lives.
Oyinkansola Dada, art curator and founder of Dada Gallery says, “We are delighted to present an exceptional collection of artworks for the 2021 edition of the Art X Lagos fair, from a group of exciting emerging artists working in a variety of disciplines from all over the African continent and diaspora. It is a pleasure to be presenting at Art X Lagos for the first time, as the fair supports the most innovative contemporary art from Africa.”
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By Phoebe Fraser