Ngozi Schommers, “My Head Under”, 2019, perforated paper, sequin, design paper, watercolour, ink on Watercolour paper, 150x180cm.

By Prisca Sam-Duru

Nigerian-German artist, Ngozi Schommers opened her second solo exhibition titled “The Way We Mask”, at the National Museum, Lagos, from November 2nd to run till November 14th, 2019.

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The exhibition features new large scale works created with perforated paper, confetti, sequin, water colour, acrylic, and fibre, and an installation comprising of fifty-eight drawings.

Curated by Wura-Natasha Ogunji, artist and curator, “The Way We Mask” expands the body of work by Schommers focusing on memories, culture and identity. She returns to memories of time past to look in-depth at how hair shapes the identity of Africans while searching for what existed before today’s hair culture, as well as the meanings of the hairstyles.

Born in Enugu in 1974, and based in Germany and Ghana, Schommers’ work focuses on subjects of identity, equality, memory, culture, migration and colonialism. She uses the body and experiences of the female gender, archival materials and memories of her childhood, in tackling these subjects. The artist conceptualises spaces where the understanding of identity and the ideals of beauty are far removed from representations constructed in recent times.

“The discussions on hairstyles of Africans are often overshadowed by colonial history, western representation and perception of our culture with no regards to pre-colonial history. For my research on these works, among other references, I engaged with pre-colonial Igbo hairstyles through the archival images of ‘Agbogho Mmuo’ (maiden spirit mask), using internet sources and the book ‘Among the Ibos of Nigeria’ by George Thomas Basden.” She stated.

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Beyond examining pre-colonial archives and the images of Agbogho Mmuo, Schommers revisited photographs from her childhood, to study the hairstyles of her mother and other women. She found striking similarities between then and now. That connection is what Ogunji describes thus in her curatorial statement; “We began with a photograph of stylish women in wigs. How could they know that their image would have a place in this future, that their simple pose would inspire the markings and makings of a daughter yet-to-be-born? It is this return and remembrance that so eloquently frames the work before us now, and the work we do as artists in the world. We give ourselves to the ‘widening circles.’”



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