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Kosi… little girl’s string on Western hegemony

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By Nduka Otiono

A FOUR-pane painting on transparent plexi glass by award wining Nigerian-born, Canadian artist, Kosisochukwu Nnebe, has literally lit up the Canada Montreal art scene. The painting entitled “M(other)nity” seeks to re-define the complexity of the modern black woman as opposed to the prevalent simplistic portrayal of black women in the mainstream media.

Her exhibition at the famous Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was part of the exhibition of the works of eight African-Canadian artists under the auspices of the Michaelle Jean Foundation to mark the Black History Month celebrations in Canada. It was the first ever group exhibition by black Canadian artists at the Museum, and the first by a Nigerian.

*Kosisochukwu putting finishing touch to one of her works
*Kosisochukwu putting finishing touch to one of her works

Commenting specifically on Kosi’s work, Honorable Michaelle Jean, who was the immediate past Governor General of Canada, commended the message behind the painting, and described Kosi as “an intelligent, gifted and dynamic artist.”

Visual counter argument

Speaking in a similar manner, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, praised Kosi for projecting Nigeria in a positive light. Chief Maduekwe, who spoke at a private dinner he hosted for the artist in his residence, urged her to become a rallying point for other similarly gifted young Nigerians in Canada so that they would project a more positive image of the country through their creative works.

Kosisochukwu described her painting as “a visual counter argument against the current narratives in the North American media, which portrays black women as the single-dimensional, hyper sexualized figures depicted in rap music videos.” She further argued through her three-part exhibition, which had video and written components, “that black women are complex multi-dimensional beings who comprised of mothers, scientists, industry leaders, students, artists and musicians.”

Kosi’s current exhibition, which opened in February and ended in March, is her second major art exhibition in Montreal in two years. In February 2013, also as part of the annual Black History Month, she held a solo art exhibition, ‘Kosi’s Vernisage’ to the acclaim of the art-loving Montreal society. Her current and previous works have been broadcast on local television channels and re-blogged across various Internet portals, reigniting the discussion of the deprecating portrayal of the black female body in mainstream media.

Speaking about the exhibition, Kosi said, “My project, m(other)nity, is a redefiniton of the concept of modernity by the other. I wanted to examine the concept, the manner in which it intersects with race and gender and re-interpret my position within it. M(other)nity aims to challenge a concept that is in many ways a hegemonic cultural device and invites each individual to redefine and re-position themselves within this modern world.”

A naturally talented artist with no formal art training, Kosi has in the past garnered awards across varied art, academic and leadership platforms. Some of her most notable awards include the 2011 Community Youth Leadership Award by the Black History Organization, Ottawa; Toyota Earth Day Essay Award, 2010; the Scholastic Gold Key Award in poetry, 2008; and the admission in 2013 into the Golden Key International Honors Society for being amongst the top 15% of high performing students from top-ranked Universities in the world.

The founder of ‘Coloured

Conversation’, an online platform for the discussion of race and gender issues through art collaboration, Kosi has also been invited to exhibit her works in California in October by the California Black Arts Alliance and the Silicon Valley Arts Council.

While earnestly pursuing the conclusion of her double major academic pursuit in Economics and International Development Studies at McGill University, Kosi believes that black people, especially black women should take up the mantle of defining themselves, and should never surrender to the destructive narratives of a hostile world.

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