Behind the curtains of Nigerian society, the word Ashawo (slang used in reference to a sex worker / prostitute) weaves a complex narrative of prejudice and resilience. Like strokes on a canvas, it paints a portrait of the challenges faced by Nigerian women in a patriarchal world. Our exhibition Ashawo: who says you’re a hoe?? invites you to immerse yourself in the artistic dialogue of four Nigerian artists; three young female creatives from the vibrant streets of Lagos, and one from the capital city, Abuja.

Through a fusion of visual artistry, sartorial expression, captivating documentaries, and emotive interdisciplinary performances, these voices challenge the very fabric of societal norms.

Oluwabukunmi Olukitibi, LET ME BreathE h(W)OoMAN, 2024, Audio, text, visual art, picture and videos, performance

LET ME BreathE h(W)OoMAN
I first introduce you to Oluwabukunmi’s LET ME BreathE h(W)OoMAN, where the female form takes center stage in a captivating symphony of sensory exploration and empowerment. Oluwabukunmi Olukitibi is a performance artist, community engager, dance and yoga teacher, and choreographer from Abuja, Nigeria.

With movement as her primary medium, Oluwabukunmi’s practice is a visual journal exploring the essence of life and her position within a seemingly never-ending timeline. She uses her performances as a vehicle to visually integrate ancestral modalities with the modern while preserving their essence.

Exploring the art of LET ME BreathE h(W)OoMAN, Oluwabukunmi’s multidisciplinary approach intertwines visual art, video, text, audio, and movement to craft an experience that resonates deeply with the essence of womanhood. Through the lens of her cameras, she explores the realms of sensuality and sexuality, capturing the essence of breath in its most intimate forms. From whispered confessions to bold declarations, her video components invite viewers to immerse themselves in the essence of feminine desire, breaking down barriers and sparking conversations that transcend taboo.

In the written word, she confronts societal prejudices head-on, challenging the language of oppression and reclaiming the narrative of the female experience. Thought-provoking reflections and courageous testimonials serve as a rallying cry for change, inspiring viewers to question ingrained biases and embrace a more inclusive worldview.

Elfrida Grey, Hope in Choas, 2024, Video, 10 min.

In the auditory realm, a tapestry of voices weaves togethertoformasymphonyofsolidarity, amplifying the stories and perspectives of women from all walks of life. Through spoken word performances, intimate interviews, and evocative soundscapes, she seeks to foster empathy and understanding, igniting a movement of collective empowerment and liberation. Finally, Oluwabukunmi Olukitibi culminates in a visceral movement performance that embodies the strength, sensuality, and resilience of the female spirit. With every graceful gesture and powerful stance, the artist reclaim agency over their bodies, challenging societal expectations and paving the way for a future where every woman is free to thrive. What Can You see? a body OR a tool?

"I chose to be a part of this exhibition because I want to share relatable experiences in my community about how I’ve been labeled as a woman for simply existing, going against trend, having a mind of my own and the struggle other women with health issues go through in the society." – Janet Adenike Adebayo

In a world where the female form is often reduced to mere objects of desire, what can you see? A body or a tool? by Janet Adenike Adebayo challenges us to perceive women as individuals, each possessing intrinsic value and agency beyond physical appearance. Through a series of provocative reflections, this exhibition invites viewers to reconsider societal perceptions of femininity and gender dynamics. From advocating for women’s autonomy in the workplace to reclaiming public spaces without fear, the artworks echo a resounding call for empowerment and respect.

Janet Adenike Adebayo, Platonic, 2024, Acrylic on canvas, 36 in x 48 in

In a society plagued by insecurities and stereotypes, the artist seeks to normalize platonic relationships and foster genuine connections between genders. By dismantling the stigma surrounding male- female friendships, the narrative evolves into one of mutual understanding and camaraderie. Yet, amidst these contemplations lies a stark reminder of the harsh realities faced by women, particularly those grappling with health issues. From the silent struggles of reproductive health to the unjust scrutiny of past choices, the exhibition sheds light on the complexities of womanhood often overlooked by society. Drawing from personal experiences and insights gained from serving in a maternity hospital, the artist invites us to confront our biases and embrace a more empathetic perspective. What can you see? A body or a tool? transcends mere aesthetics, offering a piercing reflection on the intricacies of gender, identity, and societal expectations. Janet Adenike Adebayo often refers to herself as a ‘’confessional’’ artist, whose works embody recurring themes of self-discovering and consciousness. The artist expresses herself using acrylic and mix-media on canvas; employing techniques, such as her signature mosaic skin tones, fusing a collage of colors to create humanoid figures made obvious by exaggerated features.

From the wardrobe of a rebellious black bird
As you wander through our gallery of art, allow me to guide you through the exquisite varieties of femininity depicted in each piece of Blessing Offiong Ekpenyong’s from the wardrobe of a rebellious black bird.

Blessing Offiong Ekpenyong, From the wardrobe of a rebellious blackbird, 2024,Outfits, pictures, video

Blessing Offiong Ekpenyong's collections are a celebration of diversity and inclusivity, embracing the beauty of all body types and ethnicities. With her meticulous attention to detail and innovative approach to garment, the fashion designer’s constructions result in pieces that not only adorn the body but also serve as a form of artistic expression.

First, introducing "The Goddess," a captivating portrayal of purity, boldness, and cleanliness. Here, the artist captures the essence of womanhood, untouched by the judgments of society, adorned in divine attire, a beacon of grace and majesty. Next, immerse yourself in "Tunic. B.B," a fascinating representation of resilience amidst adversity. Veiled from head to toe, the figure navigates the scrutiny of onlookers, defying unfounded judgments with unwavering determination. Venture further into the realm of authenticity with "Rooky," a place where freedom and confidence reign supreme. Despite societal labels and accusations, this piece radiates authenticity, untouched by the constraints of conformity. In "Boss lady," discover the embodiment of intellect and poise as she navigates the corporate world. Despite her achievements, she faces unjust condemnation, a reflection of the challenges women endures in male-dominated spaces. Experience solace in "Tunic sexy," where self-awareness and compassion intertwine. Amidst the chaos of societal expectations, this piece offers a sanctuary, reminding women of their inherent strength and beauty. Finally, pay homage to "Anansa," the embodiment of tradition and celebration. Despite reverence, she faces scrutiny and misunderstanding, her sacred rituals misconstrued by the narrow-minded. In this exhibition, Ekpenyong invites you to explore the nuanced complexities of femininity, each piece a testament to the resilience, authenticity, and beauty of womanhood amidst societal expectations and judgments.

Hope in Chaos
Elfrida Grey is a talented movement director and choreographer. Grey’s art explores themes of sensuality, women’s activism, storytelling, and femininity. Get ready for an immersive experience that challenges societal norms and celebrates the complexity of womanhood.

Elfrida Grey, Hope in Choas, 2024, Video, 10 min.

In Grey’s art, you’ll see a blend of intricate choreography and emotive storytelling, reflecting the diverse experiences of women. Using both contemporary and classical dance techniques, Elfrida Grey creates captivating performances that draw you into her world of artistry. At the heart of our exhibition is Grey’s powerful piece, Hope in Chaos. A dance documentary revolving around strong female dancers as they break free from societal pressures and stereotypes. Witness the mesmerizing choreography as the dancers, draped in ethereal white, move in a hypnotic circular motion to haunting instrumentals, embodying the daily struggles faced by women against societal stigma.

At the end of it all, this exhibition series is more than a gallery showcase; it’s a call to action, an invocation for change. Together, these female artists invite us all to rewrite the narrative, brush by brush, until it reflects a world where every woman is celebrated, respected, and free to soar. Coalescing in a symphony of solidarity, crafting a future where the echoes of Ashawo fade into the annals of history, replaced by a chorus of empowerment and equality.

Amaechina David SNIPES
Open Call Exhibition
© apexart 2024

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