On The Table Read, the “Best Entertainment Celebrity Magazine in the UK“, Retro Africa announces a major solo exhibition by the award-winning multidisciplinary artist Ken Nwadiogbu.
A SOLO EXHIBITION
INSTALLATION | PAINTINGS | NFTS
29 APRIL – 23 JUNE 2022
RETRO AFRICA, ABUJA
Retro Africa announces a major solo exhibition by the award-winning multidisciplinary artist Ken Nwadiogbu this spring, presenting a new series of paintings representing Nwadiogbu’s experiences living in Nigeria; an installation branded ‘Jesus of Lübeck’, a canoe referencing the Badagry Slave Trade; and an animated NFT series of a digital recreation of “the migrant”. This exhibition marks Nwadiogbu’s inaugural solo exhibition in Nigeria, and Retro Africa’s first NFT launch.
Nwadiogbu is credited for introducing the “Contemporealism” movement, a fusion that is primarily centred on Hyper-Realism and Contemporary art. Featuring a new series of twelve paintings, Nwadiogbu captures figuratively painted memories to drive conversations about the way of life of people living in Nigeria.
For Nwadiogbu, it is his hope that these people begin to interact with the viewer, constantly expressing what it feels like to be them.
Branded ‘Jesus of Lübeck’, a decorated canoe takes reference from the Badagry Slave Trade. A 5th voyage sets away but the migrants restrict movement and try to capsize the boat. Migrants in this installation, are represented by painted boxes of faces of people living in Nigeria.
Nwadiogbu was captivated by the utility of the cardboard box as a parcel and a global trade metaphor, and how it arguably reflects the migrant experience. In the installation, each box holds a past, present and future, to be transported across oceans, and mountains, and to eventually land at a distant destination. Each box is painted with its personal identifier (the faces of people in Nwadiogbu’s life) but the stacking nods towards the collective.
Ken Nwadiogbu said: “For me, this is a statement on migration in this time. It is me encouraging people not to follow the “ship of no return”. It’s great to migrate, but even greater to return. If we keep leaving (without plans of returning), there’ll be nobody to champion change in the country.”
NFT ‘The Migrant’
‘The Migrant’ is a collection of 100 NFTs. Released gradually at the fixed price of 1 ETH, ‘The Migrant’ NFTs are unique bundles, each piece being sold together with its corresponding personified cardboard box sculpture, to be shipped to its primary buyer worldwide.
‘The Migrant’ is part of the ongoing cross-reality project ‘Journey Mercies’, launched on the blockchain in November of 2021, and later continued in the physical world with critically acclaimed exhibitions in the UK, the US and Nigeria. Acknowledging the need for extending our perspectives, and widening our critical horizon, ‘The Migrant’ project aims at contributing to build critical thinking and opportunities locally, to foster the emergence of a more caring, accepting and loving societies; to help achieve this objective, 20% of the sale proceeds will help fund Five Cowries Initiative, a Nigerian NGO promoting art education as a tool to foster Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity, through the implementation of art education programme countrywide. Let’s take a step aside and embrace a different perspective.
Video ‘Different Shades Of Èkó’
‘Different Shades Of Èkó’ is an experimental video paying tribute to the vibrant city of Lagos and its dreamful youth. Breaking ties with the fantasised vision of a city known for its dreadful violence and poverty, ‘Different Shades Of Èkó’ finds in its youth’s communal spirit, creativity and social rituals the driving force of its narrative outline.
Displaying a compilation of clips tinted with evocative colour filters picturing scenes of the mundane Lagos, its daily commutes, parties, and struggles, the video aims at providing the viewer with a God-eye view perspective, allowing space for her/him to recompose her/his own story. In a society drained by a dire economical and political climate, life is still pulsing strong to the pace of Èkó’s roady nightlife (the eponym title by Nigerian music producer @blackculturee_ serving as the film soundtrack); serving as a pledge to the power of community to overcome obstacles and achieve collective growth, the video points out to the present as the place where to make change happen: and if we are all heroes in our movies, we can, too, be those of our very lives.
Directed by Ken Nwadiogbu
Music composed by Black Culture
Video credit: Arinze Stanley, Oge Anunobi, Tosin James, Ronke Komolafe, Chidinma Ezechukwu, Godiva Omoruyi, and Oge Chukwu
Co-curated by Retro Africa Founder and Creative Director Dolly Kola-Balogun and Curator Maurice Chapot, they said “As the UK recently announced in a dramatic statement the outsourcing of Asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, migration took the light once again as a serious, and challenging matter of concern on the global stage. In playful colours and simple forms, Ken Nwadiogbu critically addresses this sensitive subject, inviting us to embrace new perspectives. Using personified cardboard boxes as vivid metaphors of black migrants, he plays around with the parcels’ disposable nature, underlining the dehumanisation process at work in the migration politics.”
Ken Nwadiogbu said: “There’s no one perspective of looking at the world. Your view of how you see the world is different from my view. I believe the rare ability to see the world from a different perspective other than yours is what humanity is all about. Empathy thrives from there, Ubuntu becomes achievable.
A different perspective is an exhibition that explores the social life of Nigerians. How we live, love, and survive, even in the midst of many political crises. These works are captured memories of experiences in Nigeria, figuratively painted to drive conversations about the way of life of people living here.
For me, it is my hope that these people begin to interact with you, constantly expressing what it feels like to be them.”
About Ken Nwadiogbu
Ken Nwadiogbu (b. 1994, Nigeria) is a self taught multidisciplinary artist, based in Lagos, Nigeria. A trained civil engineer, he soon pivoted to fine art, first embracing hyperrealism and charcoal drawing before expanding his creative horizon to more conceptual works and a wider array of techniques, including acrylic painting, sculpture and installation, upon developing the engaging layered monochrome portraits that have now become his signature. His works are inspired by iconic American contemporary art figures such as J.-M. Basquiat, @kehindewiley, @toyinojihodutola and @kerryjamesmarshsall.
On Nwadiogbu’s large canvases, stories superimpose in multiple layers. Mixing together hyperrealist charcoal eyes and faces drawings with newspaper collages, or monochrome portraiture, he creates ingenious, politically charged visual illusions. In his eye-catching trompes l’oeil, he deploys a singular outlook, daring the audience to question their own, for “value lies in the perspective”. Defending an art that can be at once smart and fun, Nwadiobgu explores grave matters in intense colours and playful cut-outs, addressing altogether black representation and identity, displacement, and socio-political control.
Applied in strong monochromatic layers, Nwadiogbu’s colours are highly purposeful. Beyond the solid symbolic he places behind his various tones (blue for purpose, purple for ambition, etc.), there is an undeniably catchy appeal to his works, they reclaim attention: they are here to be seen, and noticed. Recently exploring new forms through colourful cardboard boxes installations and dynamic 3D renderings, Nwadiogbu enjoys to expand his perspective -and ours, rarely ever leaving anything to chance, but rather proceeding from a place of joy, and intentional care.
About Retro Africa
Retro Africa is a contemporary art gallery and platform based in Abuja, Nigeria. Led by Founder and Creative Director Dolly Kola-Balogun. Since 2015 they have fostered a community of artists, enthusiasts, curators and collectors.
Retro Africa provides a platform for emerging and established artists through a range of creative outlets such as curated exhibitions, art fairs, intercultural dialogues and online media. Their aim is to spread awareness and encourage a cycle of growth and learning within the African art scene.
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