Saturday 3 January 2015

From fashion to photography, Osakwe unchains feminine image

By Tajudeen Sowole
 IN an attempt to reverse what has been described as fictionalised feminine value, a fashion designer, Maki Osakwe, employs photography, exhuming relief textures out of prints to create innovative visual contents.

Titled, This Side Up, Osakwe's body of work, which includes mixed media of painting in blind or shield styles and cuttings that exude optical effect, they breathes fresh air into the Lagos art space as the exhibition ended last week at the Miliki Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos. Quite an increasing number of photo artists have been expanding the space of photography as an art form in Nigeria in the last 10 years.

Osakwe's This Side Up also adds to the growing strength of the medium as she brings modeling and fashion into the contentious space of feminine rediscovery.

                            Maki Osakwe, during the opening of This Side Up

At the opening, the white walls of Miliki Gallery strengthened by over illumination from spots and flood lighting, appears not strong enough to blur the images, even in the miniatures and medium sizes of the works. From techniques such as folding, shading and cutting or perforation, the images, which feature a fashion model, captivate visitors such that the red tags constantly surface on the walls in appreciation of Osakwe’s efforts.  

Drawing analogy from different languages’ meaning or interpretation of the word 'virgin', the photo artist and designer present another perspective into what she argues as the truth about feminineness. She says it's based on some facts about women that have been transformed, altered and hidden throughout time, and across generations. "It's attempting to challenge perceptions through reforming the feminine image and presenting her in original form as against the altered."

Sponsored by Veuve Clicquot Champagne, organized by White Space Creative Agency, and curated by Nkechi Bakare, This Side Up, Osakwe says, "is my first attempt at an art exhibition in photography." Not exactly new to photography: "I have been taking pictures of my models and fashion designs for years" she discloses. 

And with credentials such as "first and only Africa-based designer to be worn by the First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama," the fragile perception of collecting her work disappears. This perhaps explains why the red tags keep coming throughout the opening hours. However, the future would tell if indeed, photography work of a fashion designer - not known on the art lexicon of Lagos - has art value. But as a creative content and concept, Osakwe's work really enthralls. As a creative personality, Osakwe adds to the positive image of Nigerians making impact across the borders. Coincidentally, she joins Nigerian-born Duro Olowu, a lawyer turned-designer, based in London, U.K., who is also one Michelle Obama’s favourite fashion artists.
  Osakwe's bio says she is one of Africa’s leading designers. It says further: "A creative director of the women’s wear label Maki Oh, Osakwe is known for her cerebral and feminine clothing designs as well as her innovative way of marrying traditional African textiles with a contemporary aesthetic. She is the first and only Africa-based designer to be worn by the Michelle Obama.

In October 2014, Osakwe was invited to The White House in Washington D.C as a guest of The First Lady for her “Celebration of Design” event featuring Mrs. Obama’s favourite designers."

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