ESCAPE TO WITHIN
14 JUL - 8 AUG 2021
CROMWELL PLACE LONDON
DADA Gallery is pleased to present Escape To Within, the first solo exhibition of Nigerian artist Bunmi Agusto. The exhibition will be on view at Cromwell Place, London from July 14 - August 8, 2021. Combining painting, drawing and collage, Agusto illustrates a fictional cultural pilgrimage through 19 new works executed with pastel pencils, ink, acrylic, sandpaper and paper. The artist invites viewers to engage with figures wandering through braided forests and dark waters into her surrealist wonderland called Within, a world based on the structures of the mind and distorts logic and space.
The indigenous inhabitants of this world are hybrid figures whose human forms are interwoven with elements the artist finds integral to her sense of self and cultural consciousness. The mutated subjects are born from the metaphorical language of cultural theory as they are an embodiment of the intersection of the cultural and biological connotations of the terms alien and hybrid. Family members, friends and passersby in the artist’s waking life are subsumed into the artist’s wonderland to occupy the role of immigrants, thus repositioning humans as the foreign peoples.
Agusto further addresses the ambiguous nature of figurative language through her naturally braided terrains, which specifically reference the idiomatic expression “the world in my head”. She cites stories such as Amos Tutuola’s The Palm Wine Drinkard, Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as major influences. She challenges learned relationships with objects and language to create a complex fantasy world that explores cultural theory and the evolution of selfhood.
For her solo exhibition Escape to Within, Agusto honed in on these artistic choices to focus on a wave of humans migrating into her mindscape. Through cutting and pasting technique, both the hybrids and humans are constantly kept separate from the spaces as a nod to the artist’s own peripatetic lifestyle moving between Lagos and London and not always feeling tethered to a particular space. She emphasises the looseness of their presence through her manipulation of light and space as her subjects rarely naturally cast shadows.
6 MAR - 6 JUN 2021
YAAS HOTEL DAKAR
DADA Gallery is pleased to present ‘Forgotten Icons’, a solo exhibition by Djibril Drame. This body of work celebrates two women Senegalese artists -- traditional singer Yande Codou Sene and tassukat Aby Gana Diop. Both women represent a radical shift from the norm in Senegalese music, redefining genres and creating reverbrating impact through their art. Drame recreates their imagery with a contemporary twist, beautifully illuminating their undying spirits.
Yande Codou Sene is one of Senegal’s greatest traditional singers. She celebrated her culture by singing in her native Serer language. Through this, she has had a profound influence on Senegambian music. At her peak, she was ‘la griotte de Senghor’. Till today, she is regarded as one of the ‘last of the Mohicans’ of Serer polyphonic poetry. Aby Gana Diop was Dakar’s most famous tassukat, channelling the divine inspiration and poetry of the tassou into her craft since age 18. Tassou’s rap-like rapidity made Aby assert that ‘rap was born in Senegal’ and she went on to dazzle the whole country, across all demographics, reminding them that rap is “above all an expression of women”. Aby’s style of music became the first and most memorable recording of tassou by a female singer.
BUNMI AGUSTO, CHUKWUDUBEM UKAIGWE
EVERYTHING GOOD WILL COME
5 DEC - 10 JAN 2021
DADA Gallery is pleased to present a joint exhibition featuring works by Bunmi Agusto and Chukwudubem Ukaigwe.
This exhibition brings together two young Nigerian artists who partake in reimagining the role of the Nigerian youth. Together, the works comprise a story which depicts a reawakening and the reignition of hope. Following the brutal suppression of protests against police brutality in Nigeria, a pertinent question lingers, “what next?”. What next for demanding accountability? What next for political organising? What next for demanding a right to life?
In this state of unknowing and questioning, we thought it important to bring together two artists, both in the early stages of their careers, whose work provide a mirror to young Nigerians both at home and abroad who over the past few weeks have shared a sense of political and social solidarity which they are experiencing for the first time in their generation. These works provide a vessel through which new nodes of existence and social participation can be explored, expanding our view of ourselves and bringing us closer to answering the question of what next whilst reclaiming our rightful space within all forms of socio-political discourse.
Bunmi Agusto’s paintings follow a woman of the fictional Aruaro clan, which translates into blind from the Bini language of the artist’s maternal tribe, the Edo people. Within Agusto’s practice, this clan can be identified by the tribal marks on their cheeks in which the ancestral eyes are nestled. This second set of eyes are closed throughout childhood and only open when the Aruaro encounters their ancestors through a projection of oneself in their dreams, as depicted in this series, and wakes up with both sets of eyes open. During this rite of passage, the Aruaro and their ancestors engage in a dialogue that leaves both parties enlightened in both traditional and contemporary perspectives. This body of work ties closely to present day, in which young Nigerians who have been born into a system of silence finally reach a point of political awakening. At the very core of her practice, she questions what objects trigger her Nigerian cultural consciousness using Sherry Turkle’s theory of evocative objects as vessels anchoring personal histories and cultural identity.
Chukwudubem Ukaigwe’s paintings depict Nigeria’s youth in their multiplicity of identities. At the core of this is the acknowledgement that their existence cannot be discussed with a monolithic view as Nigeria happens to be a repository of variances in experience. Ukaigwe’s paintings reimagine a world where strength is garnered in diversity, everyone coming together despite antithesis of personal beliefs, to challenge paradigms of incompetent leadership, vicious classism and neocolonial oligarchy — much similar to what was experienced at the peak of the protests. He holds onto the silver lining of hope and a belief in creating a Nigerian utopia, a Nigeria where no one is judged or condemned to a barbaric default, because of their gender, class, occupation, upbringing or sexuality. The purpose of these paintings is to create a cognitive space for an epistemological literature of gathering. A space for a dialectical assembly of young Nigerians who collectively possess a strong affinity for liberation.
IFEBUSOLA SHOTUNDE, FEMI JOHNSON, UGO AHIAKWO
PERMISSION TO EXHALE
19 - 24 DEC 2020
DADA Gallery is pleased to present Permission to Exhale, a multimedia exhibition featuring Ifebusola Shotunde, Femi Johnson and Ugo Ahiakwo.
Africa’s most populous city and Nigeria’s economic and cultural capital plays a distinctly unique role in the lives of its citizens. Even the mere utterance of the five-lettered double-syllable Portuguese word is accompanied with mixed energetic expressions. Often the word is said with a sigh, too frequently with frustration, although sometimes with delight and an air of hope.
Indeed, the city holds a unique charm to it - undoubtedly laced with less appealing attributes - but nonetheless an ineffable charm and magnetic pull that leaves all those who encounter and experience it, changed if not transformed. For better or for worse, to be an unchanged person having spent time in Nigeria’s former capital is simply to lie to oneself.
Many of its citizens are in a toxic love/hate relationship with the city, while for others the relationship is grossly abusive. Contrarily, it has been a favourable partner to a few, for many in the Diaspora a long-distance lover, and for others still, an unrequited amour. So perhaps it is more than just a city, but somewhat of a character in all our lives. A living, breathing entity to which we remain knowingly or unknowingly connected, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
Its citizens need no invitation to curse and blame the city as the cause of all their ills, but have we ever stopped to consider its feelings? Indeed, have we ever given the city a chance to breathe? For all of the ongoing trauma and despair of 2020, this year has been one of awakenings and learnings and has taught us to find moments to pause, reflect, and return to the present.
Release and flow
Let mindfulness prevail
Kindness is the new cool
And what of our city, its needs and wants and desires? On March 30th 2020 when the Nigerian government announced a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, many stockpiled food, water, and toilet roll to face their homes. For many people leading non-stop chaotic lives, this served as a moment to finally exhale.
How too did the city respond to this moment? How did it survive, or in fact did it thrive? And when we later returned to the city, but not just to resume as normal, but to fight for our right to live and against the darkness that rules over us, how did it fare?
Permission to Exhale is a multimedia exhibition that interrogates and explores the role of this unique city in the lives of its citizens, with a particular focus on the city in a year that has been one of the most particular of the 21st century. Combining documentary photography, sound and sculpture, the exhibition invites the audience to reflect on the character of the city, how it is manifested through architecture and geology, through community and socialisation, and further still, through protest.
The exhibition creates a visual juxtaposition. Exploring the binary between the quiet and emptiness that pervaded the city during the lockdown and the unbridled momentous energy that consumed it during the protests. It features Ifebusola Shotunde, Femi Johnson and Ugo Ahiakwo, artists who have been centre stage in the various waves of unrest and calm that our city has experienced in the past few months.
Of lay lay lay (Of Lagos)...
Curated by Tobi Onabolu and assisted by Sosa Omorogbe.
adeoluwa oluwajoba, FEMI JOHNSON
I HOPE THIS FINDS YOU WELL
9 MAY - 7 JUN 2020
DADA Gallery is pleased to present I Hope This Finds You Well. A joint exhibition of ruminative works by adeoluwa oluwajoba and Femi Johnson. They offer a reflection of their minds as they grasp the concept of stillness and isolation in a changing world. Space is a central focus, acting as both stimulus and subject matter.
adeoluwa focuses primarily on male bodies and their relation to “the built and imagined space”. He presents 'politics of shared living' and ‘portraits from solitude’ in which he observes the dynamic forms and shapes the bodies assume in their occupation of space, and the attendant possibilities for influence, symbiosis and subversion between both forms. He considers the relationship between bodies and their dynamic negotiations of roles and positions with the lived environment. adeoluwa is interested in utilising the male body as a site of enquiry into socio-political, cultural and heteronormative (mis)conceptions whilst exploring the notion of shared living and the negotiated space. The body of work is informed by his ongoing personal experiences of sharing a flat with friends and being isolated with them during the government imposed lockdown in Lagos, Nigeria.
Femi Johnson engages with the external as he captures vast expanses of Lagos, the sprawling economic capital of Nigeria, as it comes to an unfamiliar halt. He presents the rare emptiness that pervades the city, impacting on the viewer a sense of timelessness and spectrality. Photographing the city on long walks, he captures the symbolism of this unprecedented moment and uses Lagos as a muse for contemplation. He shoots both the familiar and the unfamiliar, sometimes offering a unique window from forgotten spaces. These spaces become the observer as they look upon a changing city.
IN PURSUIT OF EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL
7 - 8 SEP 2019
DADA Gallery is pleased to present In Pursuit of Everything Beautiful, a solo exhibition of works by Abe Ogunlende. Abe Ogunlende, is a Nigerian contemporary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria and currently residing in Paris, France. Drawing inspiration from minimalist compositions, culturally-blended images, as well as friends and family, Abe’s works feature acrylic pastel colors and confident portrait subjects, reflecting the connections between society and personhood. Representing his personal experiences within the context of a young African who straddles many cultures, Abe aims to tell a visual story of a global generation keen on showcasing their heritage and connectedness in a global world.
JOSEPH OBANUBI, BUNMI AGUSTO, WAMI ALUKO, CHIGOZIE OBI, IFE OFULUE, MOYOSORE BRIGGS, NOLLY BABES
NIGERIAN POP CULTURE
21 - 24 DEC 2018
DADA Gallery is pleased to present Nigerian Pop Culture, a group exhibition featuring Joseph Obanubi, Bunmi Agusto, Wami Aluko, Chigozie Obi, Ife Ofulue, Moyosore Briggs and Nolly Babes. The exhibition examines the evolution of various influences that are distinctly Nigerian through the eyes of a younger generation.