Sunday 9 September 2018

In paintings, Ijoyemi's 'Jag Heter Tokunbo' capture Swedish trauma

By Chinyere Elizabeth Okoroafor  
The Scaffolding' by Joseph Ijoyemi
Inspired by his traumatic experiences while growing up in Sweden, Joseph Ijoyemi's paintings track the artist's journey from racial abuse to point of acceptance.

As the artist's debut solo exhibition titled Jag Heter Tokunbo, which literally means 'My name is Tokunbo' (born oversea), it holds from October 11 through 20, 2018 at 508 Gallery, Chelsea, London, U.K. Art collectors and enthusiasts will be taken on a journey through each phase of Ijoyemi's emotional barriers and the embrace of his culture.

According to the artist, growing as a boy within the only African family in a small town of Linköping, Sweden, exposed him to various types of abuses. The trauma, he stated caused him to feel alienated and ashamed at the time. Not until at the age of 12 that he began to question his identity and race. Even when visiting his family’s home country of Nigeria, Ijoyemi still felt in denial to his culture.

The playful paintings, which are both abstract and figurative are experiments of his expressions. Ijoyemi added that he never intended to purposely paint a ‘self-portrait’, instead, he envisioned to see the bigger picture of how a young person would preserve it, seeing a reflection of themselves in him. “The exhibition stems from my life experience: what I have seen both bad and good. Also what I believe in and what is really happening in our society now as well as addressing the issue through visuals,’’ he said.
Ijoyemi's oeuvre is aimed towards younger people who have experienced abuse of any kind through their own experiences. His goal is to share a support network for this course. He explained that symbols are used as a representation of themes which run through his experiences. The Crown symbolises courage, while Red diamonds, depicting the inner darkness faced in life. The Lion shares leadership and that every person shares a purpose.

In one of the works titled The Scaffolding, Ijoyemi represents himself in his form now. According to a statement on his Facebook page: "The piece was inspired by my Pastor as he was encouraging me. He was explaining that your final destination is the full complete building of yourself and at the moment you’re life and what you are experiencing now is the scaffolding. I took that analogy from my head straight into painting....Sometimes we go through storms... to happy times, but that’s just the scaffolding part of your life, there are more to come when your complete building is done".


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