Featuring Oluwole Omofemi has been quite some time in the making, but absolutely worth the wait. After speaking with the artist at great length about the motivation and driving force behind his work, I found him to be as thought-provoking and as deep as the tribal marks etched into the skin of his mesmerizing muses.
Omofemi’s work can best be described in his own words, ‘unapologetic’.
His muses: black women depicted with skin as dark and rich as the oil that serves as the lifeblood of the artist’s home country of Nigeria, are adorned with deep tribal marks, and crowned with engulfing halo-esque afros reminiscent of past martyrs of the black power movement that swept the global African diaspora in the late 1960s right through to the early 1980s.
Omofemi’s depiction of untamed manes, midnight hue skin and deep, penetrating tribal marks is a rallying cry against what he views as the deterioration of the pride and self-esteem amongst his black sisters today – both in Nigeria, and abroad, whom he believes have been most subjected by post-colonial indoctrination and pandering to Western society’s ideal of beauty and civilization.
Raised predominantly in the company of his grandfather who shaped Omofemi’s worldview and greatly informed his understanding of his culture, and his appreciation for his heritage and identity; he was inspired by his grandfather’s period that nurtured the generation of Nigerians who fought for independence against colonial rule while embracing the notion of self-determination and their African-ness.
Prevalent in his work are overtones of nostalgia and longing for what the artist suggests to be a golden age for the esteem, strength and beauty of black women. Conversely, Omofemi’s work infers that as time passes, there has actually been a regression in the true liberty and emancipation of black women as far as their ability to embrace their most true and authentic versions of themselves, which is anchored in their African-ness, seen and felt viscerally through their skin tone and hair.
Moreover, Omofemi’s commentary on the suggested regression and plight of modern black women, and the need to reflect on and return to their former glory, has implications for the familial and relationship dynamic between black men and black women, and the topical subject of the decline of intermarriage, understanding and cohesion between the two.
Yet, despite what on face value could appear to be a bleak outlook, Omofemi’s overarching raison d’etre and mission is to showcase Afrocentric pride, which he maintains can only truly be championed through how black women, his muses, view themselves, and in turn, are viewed by others.
For him, true liberty and emancipation for Africa, and black people at large, can only be achieved and realized once black women are free to be their true selves and embraced and celebrated as they are.
Omofemi’s arresting pieces will be on show at the EMANCIPATION duo exhibition between 6th February 6 to March 14.
Out of Africa Gallery
Carrer Nou 1 - 08870 Sitges, Barcelona - Spain
By: Raphael K. Dapaah, Art Contributor.