Until November 29th, the October Gallery (London) presents remarkably manipulated materials as protagonists of the Interwoven Histories exhibition. The four featured artists, Romuald Hazoumè, Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga, Nnenna Okore and Adejoke Tugbiyele are undeniably masters at moulding together various materials to create beautiful artworks with strong narratives.
Interwoven Histories represents an incredible selection of large mixed media works, which invite the visitors, to reflect upon the history behind them. From Romuald Hazoumè’s installation Rare Finerie (2013) recreating the atmosphere of a gas station in Benin, to Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga’s wall-hanging pieces, along with Adejoke Tugbiyele’s sculptures and Nnenna Okore’s intricate webs of organic materials, the exhibition carries its visitors through a journey into African traditions and history.
Part of this excursion focuses on Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga’s sculptures, inspired by the Mabati Women Groups in Kenya, her country of origin. “My stitching, weaving and crocheting are an expression of the memories, embedded in my hands, of the motions of the Mabati Women’s hands at work” Gakunga said, during an interview with Women Create Life. The Swahili word ‘mabati’, meaning ‘galvanised’, is thus a direct link between Gakunga’s inspiration and her works. Galvanised metal sheets, rusty tin cans and oxidised steel wires are indeed Gakunga’s materials of choice, as one can see in Chemi Chemi – Spring that Nurture (2014). Echoing the natural processes that affect metals and other found objects, Gakunga manipulates her materials with water and dye in order to create complex textures and effects. Gakunga’s collection at October Gallery includes several works made out of steel wire, such as Tafsiri (2014), that recall baskets and nets traditionally weaved with natural fibres and plants by Kikuyu women. Through her artworks, Gakunga successfully intertwine her country’s history with a modern perspective that strikes the visitors at first sight.
Alongside Gakunga’s sculputres, Nnenna Okore’s works adorn the walls of October Gallery. Convoluted webs of fabric, burlap, papers and clay grasp the audience, which remains hypnotized by the perception of textures, movement and structure of the artworks. Okore employs different techniques, such sewing, twisting, waxing, weaving and dyeing to give birth to her sculptures and, considering the dedication and labour that the artist has put into it, the creation of these pieces is truly astounding. Yet, the same thing could be said for Adejoke Tugbiyele’s selection of works, product of complex entwining of materials. It is fascinating to observe how these sculpture come across as graceful and light, despite the intricate and labour-intensive work behind them. As an artist committed to social and political subjects, Tugbiyele attempts to represent spirituality, sexuality and human rights in her works and the convolution of the structure of her works can be then understood as a metaphor for the complexity of these topics.
Romuald Hazoumè’s installation also provides a metaphor for African identity. A collection of found objects transports the visitors into a primitive gas-station filled with jars, glass bottles and tarnished plastic canisters, complemented by a photograph of Station d’essence d’Abomey Calavi ed. 2/3 (2006). In addition to this visually striking work, the gallery presents several pieces of Hazoumè’s mask series. Evoking traditional African iconography, these masks are made from recycled gasoline tanks and are embellished by fabric and other materials, which allow them to to assume the appearance of faces and gain diverse personalities.
Interwoven Histories is undoubtedly a must for every art enthusiast wishing to discover strikingly manipulated materials, weaved together in an imaginative way by four different artists, who manage to stand out of the crowd of contemporary African artists devoted to recover discarded objects.
25.11.2014 – Words Giulia Franceschini
About Giulia Franceschini
Giulia Franceschini was born in Milan, Italy and graduated from Royal Holloway University of London in 2014, she is devoted to creativity and has written and directed three short films. Based in London, Giulia dedicates her time to explore contemporary cinema and visual arts.
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