Group Show at VAN DER PLAS Gallery, New York- March 2nd-8th, 2020.
These paintings are a figurative reflection of my embrace of the headscarf as a religious and personal moral obligation; a manifestation of living in a world with a rapidly changing cultural landscape, yet one where ingenuity and otherness is often viewed with wariness. I am exploring traditions that actively exclude minority women from occupying spaces of political and economic power, and the ways women are choosing to break those barriers by creating and flourishing in their own spaces or taking a stand in otherwise innately hostile environments.
Painted in warm earth tones, they reflect the clay that is moulded to produce beautiful works of pottery in one of the oldest indigenous industries in my home town, Ilorin, Nigeria. The traditional pottery sites are managed solely by women, with skills passed down from one generation to the next. Many days, I watch the clay pass through burning embers, delicately handled to prevent cracks, then dyed with the reddish hue of boiled sorghum stems and sheath leaves, reminiscent of how fiery yet delicate taking space can be for women.
I am—like many women in my city—on a journey navigating what it means to be a woman in this changing cultural landscape where more women now hold political office, now speak boldly of their life choices, from the mundane to the weighty. I am enthralled by the ways our lives connect to community, work, and family at the intersection between identity, culture and representation. My art is not only a representational tool—it is a healing outlet empowering women to push the boundaries of traditionalism and experience growth.
Beyond immediate community, there is the wider world and its wariness at our otherness. Through the marks in these works, which are reminiscent of scarifications, I seek to affirm that we are a product of our experiences and shared encounters, and the opinions of a world that seeks to speak for and about us—without hearing us—can sometimes etch in our minds like imprinted marks.
Oppression happens to our bodies as much as our minds so we must become assimilated in acceptance and love of self, to live in choice and fully embrace our femininity and sexuality. Whether that choice is to bare or cover. The discoveries of that intersection flow through these paintings and is rooted in our collective stories; mine and yours so that we may come together as a community of women in conversation and collaboration.