At The Koppel Project Exchange in London, Kanbi Projects led by Adeola Arthur Ayoola presented works by a group of young artists titled “There, Here, Nowhere: Dwelling at the Edge of the World”. Featuring Ekene Maduka, Austin Uzor, Tobi Alexandra Falade and Chukwudubem Ukaigwe, the exhibition engaged the themes of identity, displacement, longing and diaspora. Originally from Nigeria, the four artists are resident in the UK, the US and Canada respectively.
“There, Here, Nowhere: Dwelling at the Edge of the World” brings to mind discourses on interiors, both real and imagined, as a way to investigate the outside world. The constructed spaces and symbols in the paintings weave together experiences ranging from the domestic to intimate and cherished memories to familiar travails of going to live abroad. From the hairdos to the furnishings, we are provided with clues of the subjects’ identity and inward feelings such as longing and loneliness.
According to Ayoola, “the works in the exhibition navigate through complex multi- cultural, transnational, sociopolitical identities and historical art aesthetics; fluidly moving from one to the other without a sense of total belonging, as an outsider dwelling in the ‘in- between’ space of being African or Black and Western – existing on the periphery, the edge of society.”
Although most of the works are inspired by personal experiences, Uzor and Ukaigwe extend their interests to more social and economic issues. Uzor delves into some of the causes that lead to migration and displacement. His near-abstract paintings consider how conflict and instability contribute to the desire of young people to migrate, citing his own status as a Nigerian immigrant in the United States of America as an example. Existing concerns on gaze and perception in Ukaigwe’s works move the conversation further to the external factors that influence diaspora identity.
View some of the exhibited works below.