Friday 30 September 2011


Uwatse’s woman…
Straightening out a gender debate
(First published Sept 16-22, 2007)

Divine My Future (watercolour, 2006) by Chinwe Uwatse
INDIVIDUALLY or as a group, women have, of recent, stepped up campaign for redefinition of their status. But who is the ideal woman in the 21st Century? Does she really need to redefine herself?
  These pertinent questions about womanhood and its place in modern society are what abstract expressionist painter, Chinwe Uwatse, attempts to address in some of her recent works.
  Uwatse takes a brushing trip into the thoughts of the woman and comes up with a dialogue.

  If nature has placed the softer gender at the tail end of procreation process, giving her the all important role of ensuring that the new born is brought to life, why is it that some culture gives the right of custody to her spouse with whom she started the process?
 THE piece, Wake up Call, water colour and pen expresses the cry of Uwatse’s woman against the ‘unfair’ treatment of the female folk.
The artist probes further: Is the woman  merely existing or really living? Through the same work, which has an unidentified figural image in the state of agony, the woman, according to Uwatse, says she has been told she cannot have children of her own. What irony?
  The work, which depicts the despair of the woman, could be heard: “I am a wife, but I cannot aver to my husband and say he is mine. I have a house, but I do not have a home to call my own. Persons I live with, family they never be.” 
 Has she given enough to deserve her right? “Trust, love, I have given without measure. Disrespect, disdain and contempt are my full,” Uwatse’s ‘woman’ explains. 

  But she isn’t going to accept the concept of a woman the society is forcing down her throat. Time for rebellion. “I reclaim me, ” she resolves.

Hold On (watercolour, 2006)
  STILL on the protest, another piece, Divine My Future, brings a blend of spirituality into this business of redefining the woman.
  Divided into two unequal parts by a yellow inroad, each side, of course, represents either an invitation or challenge to the journey of life. 
  From challenge phrases such as ‘Divine my future — if you can. Divine my future, not my pain,’ to such spiritual and bold lines like, ‘Divine, my future; it is plain’ and ‘Divine my future; I am not vain,’ Uwatse’s woman though appears to be submissive, but wants a fair deal in the bargain.
  Largely expressed in Uli forms, the artist engages poetry to enrich the works.
  For Uwatse, this is a very familiar terrain — no apology. Few years ago, in the all female group show, Identities and Labels, which featured the works of Peju Layiwola, Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo, Angela Isiuwe, Lara Ige Jacks, Nneka Odoh, Titi Omoighe and Stella Ubigho, Uwatse fired some shots: “Am I a legal tender or am I an accessory? I am neither ... I am me."
   A 1982 graduate of Fine Art from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Uwatse was a visual arts officer and arts administrator at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) Lagos office. She was responsible for curating the agency’s local and international art exhibitions until 1994 when she retired from the civil service. She was also the curator, National Art Collection and Traditional Craft Collection of the NCAC. 

  Her solo exhibitions include Phantasmagoria (dream sequence), National Museums Onikan, Lagos, in 1991; Dissimulation, Earthly Treasures Gallery, Westboro, Ottawa, Canada in July 1992; Phantasmagoria (dream sequence), Blackberry/New Dimension, New York, US 1991.
Chinwe Uwatse
  Some of her group shows are Identities and Labels at Pan African University, Ajah, Lagos in 2005; Impressions, Bang and Olufsen Centre, Ikoyi, 1999; and the international show, Exhibition of Nigerian Art at the World International Property Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, 1995.

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