Saturday 10 March 2018

Women's Mental Health 'Unmasked' By Seven Artists

'Self on Secrets' by Somi Nwandu, digital print on canvas, 50 x 50 cm, 2017
From tomorrow, Sunday, March 11 to May 4, 2018, at The Wheatbaker, Ikoyi, Lagos, an all-female art exhibition titled Unmasked raisses alarm over mental health of women.
 It's the third edition of an all-female series 'Standing Out' exhibitions curated by SMO Contemporary Art. Significantly, on the occasion of International Women's Day, the exhibition "honours women across the globe," SMO states at a press-preview held on the same day of the global event.

  Nengi Omuku, Djakou Kassi Nathalie, Somi Nwandu, Nyancho NwaNri, Koromone Koroye, Reha Shishodia and Queen Nwaneri are the exhibiting artists who have strong links to Lagos. But the artists come from
different parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, the Gambia, India, and the U.S.

 In paintings, photographs, digital art, ceramic sculptures, poetry & spoken word performance as well as a large multi-media string installation, the seven exhibiting artists,  explore womens mental health challenges. Citing World Health Organisation's statistics that says over 7 million Nigerians suffer from depression with 4.8 millions (2.7%) suffer from anxiety disorders, SMO also notes that "World wide is just 3% of total government spending is for mental health."

 Courtesy of two emerging curators who are also health professionals, Nneoma Ilogu and Moni Oloke, Unmasked, is supported by Louis Guntrum, and the Wheatbaker According to SMO, the exhibition highlights  complex questions of identity, breaking down stereotypes, and dealing with societal pressures in densely populated mega-city of Lagos.

  We believe that art is an important tool for advocacy and change in society, the two curators explain during the press-preview. We choose artists who have a strong message and presence, and could help to publicize the need for society to focus on the mental well being of women.   A curatorial notes adds that the artists explore diverse emotional mindscapes and question what lies behind the mask: 'how do we break down societal constructs on what it is and what it takes to be a woman in a male dominated society? How do women explore and present their true multi-layered selves, and inspire others to demand for justice, break through glass ceilings, avoid societys obsession with perfection, tear down walls of shame and guilt,  and rip off these stifling emotional masks.'

 Unmasked is a bold and honest expose of what goes on within womens mindscapes through the intricate and emotionally charged work of these phenomenal artists, says Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, Founder & Artistic Director of SMO Contemporary Art. The founder who is also the Wheatbakers long standing art curator enthuses:  We are excited that the hotel can advocate for better support for mental health in Nigeria by providing an important platform for these vital issues to wbe addressed through art.

 The artists:

  QueenTochukwu was born in 1993 in Rome, Italy. She attended Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun State, Nigeria where she obtained a Diploma in Fine and Applied Art in 2012.

 She is reputed for her unabashed expressions in which rich texture of colours give vent to her subject, often times in a manner that escapes conventional exactitudes. As a portraitist, she draws her themes from the mood of her subjects (women and children) as she situates them in discourses; also allowing for spatial escape (as opposed to closed finish) this opens up
extensive suggestions about her artistic concerns. She has participated in several group themed exhibitions, her most recent participation at the International art fair, Art X Lagos. She is also represented in North America, by Cuverley LLC, an art management firm based in Atlanta, USA.

Her works are in several private collections in the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Republic of Benin and Nigeria.

 Shishodia was born in Mumbai in 1977. Art for her is life & all the shades to her personality are drawn out through her creativity. Her paintings, multi media installations and video art incorporate elements of socio-political, economic, religious and cultural interpretations.

She graduated with a Bachelors degree from the R.A Poddar College of Commerce & Economics in 1999, and received a Diploma in Graphic Design from the National Institute of Fashion Design in 2006. She has taken part in many group and solo exhibitions across India, and done art commissions for clients in India, Singapore and Italy. She draws inspiration from life around her and dives into experiences from the past to the sensory. She moved to Lagos in 2017 with her family.

Omuku was  born 1987 in Delta State, Nigeria. Her paintings feature amorphous presences that float through active or loaded spaces. Her work functions as a metaphor alluding to wider themes of identity, mental journeying and mutual belonging. Omukus colour palette acts as a subtext for transforming the human figure.

She completed an MA degree and BA degree in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, graduating in 2012.

Recent exhibitions include At Work,    Arthouse    Foundation    (2018) Stages of Collapse, September Gray Art Gallery, Atlanta (2017), the Armory Show Focus: African Perspectives, New York City (2016), A State of Mind, Omenka Gallery, Lagos (2015) and Jerwood Drawing Prize 2014, Jerwood Gallery, London (2014). She is the recipient of several awards including the British Council CHOGM Art Award, presented by HRH Queen Elisabeth II. Her work has been shown at international art fairs including ArtXLagos, 1.54 London, and the Armory Show in New York 43

 NwaNri, is a Gambian-Nigerian filmmaker and photographer born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1988 whose work revolves around African history, culture languages, spirituality and ethnic identity.

She graduated in 2012 with an Honours degree in Digital Animation from the University of Greenwich, UK. She is a self-taught filmmaker and photographer who started her career at Disneys ESPN and has since worked in the Film and TV industry in the United Kingdom and across West Africa.

Her works have been exhibited at various festivals locally and regionally including Chale Wote Festival, Ndiva Womens Film Festival (Ghana), and the Lagos Photo Festival & Tamerri Festival (Nigeria). She has also taken part in several group exhibitions in Nigeria.

NwaNri was the curator of the photography exhibition at the inaugural edition of Tamerri Festival- a first of its kind arts and culture festival in Nigeria, and is also an accredited Canon film and photography trainer under the Canon Miraisha Programme, conducting trainings and workshops across Africa

 Koroye, born in 1991, is a spoken word poet, creative thinker, writer, storyteller and all around phenomenal woman. She obtained a BA in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Africana Studies in 2012 and an MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry in 2014 from Hofstra University, New York.

 She has been writing poetry from a young age but she discovered her passion for spoken word performance during her freshman year in college. After her first time on a stage, she knew she had found her calling as an artist. After completing her masters in English Literature, she spent a year working as a travel writer in New York.

She moved back to Nigeria in 2015. She works at Flutterwave as a Marketing Executive, and in her spare time, she writes fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction as well.

  Nwandu was born in 1993 in Maryland, U.S.A. and grew up in Enugu, eastern Nigeria, as well as in the US. From an early age she was fascinated with photography and spent years exploring digital software alongside expressing her  creativity through writing, painting, drawings and fashion sketches.

She moved to New York at the age of 17 to study Fashion Business, and International Trade and Marketing at the Fashion Institute of @ and graduated in 2016. Somi worked in New York City with celebrated international fashion brands like Tom Ford, Macys and Alexander Wang as well as Ruff n Tumble in Nigeria. Somi is currently completing an MA in Global Creative and Cultural Industries at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, while actively pursuing her art in photography and fashion.

Nathalie was born in 1975 in Cameroun and attended the Institut de Formation Artistique, a secondary art school from 1992 to 1995. Upon graduation, she received a full scholarship to the Institut Samba Superieur where she studied Ceramics for three years. She became a full-time artist after university, and began teaching the technology of ceramics at her alma mater secondary school.

Her works have been featured in numerous group exhibitions in Cameroon, Europe, the USA and most recently in Nigeria. She participated in the international fair of Ouagadougou (SIAO) in 2012 and won the first African prize.

Nathalie moved to Nigeria in 2015, and is now a member of the Society of Nigerians Artists (SNA) with whom she exhibited in 2015 and 2016. She has also exhibited at the Moorehouse Hotel, Lagos.

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