By Prisca Sam-Duru
A virtual exhibition of sixteen works in painting, graphic illustration, hyper-realistic drawings, and collage by three millennial artists; Ifeatuanya “Ify” Chiejina, Nwakuso Edozien, and Johnson Eziefula, has just opened for public viewing.
The exhibition titled, ‘Neo Custodians’, curated by SMO Contemporary Art, aims to redefine, interrogate, and celebrate the African identity. The show runs from September 6 till September 30, 2020, and can be viewed on SMO Contemporary Art’s website.
‘Neo Custodians’ is an exciting mixture of media by artists who are at the beginning of their artistic journey, exploring and discovering their authentic voice in an art market saturated by diverse trend-followers. Through diverse mediums, these three young artists sift through layers of social, genetic, and cultural inheritance and influence in an attempt to define, examine, and celebrate their identity.
Showing at a most critical time of black political consciousness, especially amongst people of colour, and with the spotlight being thrown on how art reflects the Black Lives Matters movement, these young artists bring a fresh, multi-textured sensitivity and depth to the global conversation around identity and culture.
Ify Chiejina, a first-generation American, considers the complexity of being raised by African parents in the west. Her works are part of an ongoing series consisting mostly of self-portraits. Each drawing for instance, ‘Health’, represents different facets of her identity.
Ify’s works speak about the duality experienced when attempting to internalize societal precepts.
Nwakuso Edozien, a recently graduated Nigerian-German architect currently based in the United States, explores the concept of identity from a generational point of view. She creates layered portraits and illustrations as seen in ‘Three Identities’, with finely drizzled three-dimensional textures, exploring depth and interconnectedness.
Nwakuso uses mixed media as a metaphor to address the various layers and complexities of genealogical and geographical impact on the self.
Johnson Eziefula, a graduating senior of the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Lagos, adopts a more scientific approach in a series celebrating cultural hybridity. His hyper-realistic portraits such as ‘Entirety Interrupted III’- a portrait of a beautiful African lady adorned with a captivating afro hairstyle, emphasize the intersection of a myriad of influences from colonization to globalization, and technological socialization as well as their effects on communities and cultures.
Through these portraits, Johnson takes on a psychological approach with the use of light and colour to emphasize the permeation of cross-cultural influences.
According to the curator of the exhibition, Nneoma Ilogu, “These “neo custodians” do not claim to have arrived at an answer, but with each brushstroke, expose questions buried beneath the surface. They decipher the burden of the Millennial who navigates the notion of self by interrogating all inheritance and all influence”.
“Chiejina, Edozien, and Johnson reveal a continuous sensibility that asks the spectator to recompose the continuity of a narrative of heritage and identity. A vivid incompleteness is the potential of a new era of custodians and substitutes a static fulfillment of a transforming role. Being a Neo Custodian evolves into something thrilling as we are invited to enter laboratories of discourses”, commented Dr. Charlotte Langhorst, Art Historian.