“The Visit” by Emeka Udemba

By Prisca Sam-Duru

With the opening of his new body of work at the new Temple Muse, Victoria Island, Lagos, Emeka Udemba has joined the teeming African creatives who are showcasing vibrant art, design, photography and fashion that in one way or the other, question our identity.

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Emeka Udemba’s exhibition titled, “A Question of Being”, curated by SMO Contemporary Art, marked the opening of the new space of  the luxury store, Temple Muse in Victoria Island. With an even more expansive space, Temple Muse which has for over a decade, served as an alternative space for the promotion of artists and their works, is all geared up to do more for the industry. One must add that the new space combining art, fashion and lifestyle, is very well thought out as this creates more visibility for African arts.

The space is purpose built to provide the perfect platform for large art installations. Its expansive walls and new gallery provide space for Udemba’s work and to those of other artists that may seize the opportunity to showcase their works in the future.

“Our brand new space marks over eleven years of hard work in which we have had the pleasure of showcasing the best of art, design, fashion, decorative accessories and gifts from Nigeria and across the globe, as well as many other specially curated events all through these years,” explained Avinash Wadhwani,  who founded the store with his brother, Kabir.

Fascinated that the new body of work by Udemba, an artist with great profile is opening the new space, Wadhwani stated that “Udemba’s exhibition is the perfect way of marking this exciting next step, as we recognize many of the artists we have showcased over the years including Chidi Kwubiri, Gerald Chukwuma, ModupeolaFadugba, Kenny Adewuyi, Victor Ehikhamenor, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and many others”

The exhibition, sponsored by Zircon Marine and Villa Antinori, runs till December 15 at the new Temple Muse.

Emeka’s  “A Question of Being” presents “the vibrancy of hybrid cultures” referencing race, history, memory, gender, time, and beauty. He experiments with rich colors, transparencies, words, newspaper shreds, and textures, to create multi-layered portraits which take a critical look at the emergence of vibrant multi-cultural communities in addition to how hybrid identity affects our sense of belonging.

As an artist of Nigerian descent who lives and works between Lagos, Nigeria and in Freiburg, Germany, his paintings and installations speak to the issue of global migration and the need for people to be confident in their race, ethnic roots, and culture. The artist believes that we should “not let ourselves be defined by the strangers’ gaze, but to celebrate the diverse colors of all humanity.”

“Moving to Europe for years has changed my work and I’ve been able to understand that being an artist means being actively engaged in things happening around you. It’s not only about beauty, and so, going back to 2000 and 2002 at Dak’Art Biennale, I did an installation where I constructed two paths as though you are going through the airport; one for US and European citizens, one for the others.

I layered the ground of the US and European citizens with lots of roses, and others, with broken sharp nails, bottles, toilet papers and stuffs like that.” Emeka explained.  That turned out a very successful exhibition that spurred the artist to explore more on the theme around the experiences of foreign persons in foreign lands or as a person of colour. This show he goes on, draws from so many works done that are dealing with same issue of identity and culture. The new body of work deals with the question of, “Who I’m I and what’s my place in the society that I’m living in?”

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The lucid and very timely exhibition plays around the issue of whether we are in the post-racial era or whether there is a reversal. The question of belonging is not a challenge reserved for foreigners outside Africa but is a serious issue in Africa as evident in the xenophobic attacks  in South Africa, and Nigeria where people still face the question, Where are you from? And are most often, treated as aliens in their fatherland.


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