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Artwork exhibition in London captures trauma of Nigerian youths

By Prisca SamDuru

The 2018 START Art Fair hosted by the prestigious Saatchi Gallery in London ended on a good note, with three cutting edge contemporary artists from Nigeria, capturing socio-political and emotional trauma experienced by Nigerian youths.

SMO Contemporary Art being one of only two galleries that represented Africa, had its booth exhibition title as InBETWEEN.

InBETWEEN showcased paintings by Nengi Omuku, and mixed media works by Ngozi Omeje and Olumide Onadipe.

The START Art Fair held from September 13-16 focused on discovering and presenting ‘tomorrow’s art today’, with specially curated projects from the Far East and Europe at the ultra-modern exhibition space in the heart of the London Chelsea district.

SMO Contemporary Art was invited to participate and exhibit works by emerging contemporary artists from the continent as a way of increasing diversity, and showcasing new creative directions.

“inBETWEEN highlights the socio-political and emotional state of Africa’s youth who often find themselves “in-between”, whether waiting for admission to school, yearning to travel, searching for employment….or in-between racial, ethnic or gender divides at the margins of society and stereotypic consciousness.”

A product of the Slade School of Fine Art, London, Nengi Omuku presented amorphous presences with afro-centric hairstyles and abstracted internal mindscapes which allude to wider themes of identity, mental journeying and mutual belonging. Omuku’s colour palette acts as a subtext for transforming the human figure and exploring fluid states of inBETWEEN.

One of Nigeria’s most exciting ceramic installation artists and ceramics lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Ngozi Omeje’s works were titled  Unbooked.

Unbooked, a mixed media installation created out of hundreds of nylon threads and pieces of plastic flip-flops was inspired by the sea of undocumented migrants across the world. She employed string to explore the frailty of life through the use of suspended forms and configurations which are still connected to universal experiences.

Olumide Onadipe, an experimental artist fascinated by textures and environmental themes, presented intricate mixed media sculptures created out of ubiquitous plastic bags which litter global megacities like Lagos. His works explored the social, political and economic realities of migrating populations, affected by territorial encroachment and insecurity, forced labour, consumerism, and environmental pollution.

Founder & Artistic Director of SMO, Sandra Mbanefo Obiago who has focused on presenting art outside traditional gallery settings since 2011 stated that: “We are delighted to present a unique perspective on important global issues such as migration, identity, and belonging, from a local viewpoint, and using materials which are either overlooked, or increasingly pollute our environment.”

Obiago added that African artists are some of the most important ambassadors Africa has, considering their commitment towards projecting real and often very positive stories onto global platforms with fresh, colorful energy.

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