The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) is pleased to present AWAKENING & POWER: Artistic Expressions Transcending Time, an exhibition of striking and original works by the Ethiopian-born sculptor, Etiyé Dimma Poulsen, and the multidisciplinary Nigerian painter, sculptor, videographer, poet and performer, Stacey Ejiroghene Okparavero.
The enthrallingly beautiful sculptures by Etiyé Dimma Poulsen convey a sense of fragility and vulnerability, but have an inner core of strength, power, pride and dignity. Stacey Ejiroghene Okparavero’s unique images of masks painted on canvas symbolise a renewed African awakening and ascendancy to positions of power. In this seminal exhibition, the two artists have come together to present a unified message of pride in their past, awareness of the present and hope for the future.
Antwerp-based Poulsen’s colourful ceramic figures, many depicting women, imply the ‘Afrocentricity’ of her subjects by emphasising just a few elementary characteristics. Fine clay, meticulously sculpted on elongated wire mesh, is painted with natural pigments and baked in a kiln—a crucial process to bring the figures to life. Etiyé says, “Fire is a creative element which models all of my sculptures, giving them life”. The intensity of the fire creates small cracks and texturing in the surface which contributes to the naturalness of the sculptures, imbuing them with final colour, true character and fragile authenticity. The final image of the women, men and children are of beautiful, vulnerable people who tend to unlock powerful emotions in the viewer.
Okparavero, based in Lagos, is presenting a powerful new series of paintings, ‘We the Kings’, as a call to conscious Africans to awake and reclaim their glorious history and dignity. The collection reflects the artist’s observations and diverse experiences in the art ecosystem, as a Nigerian who has witnessed the moral decadence in her society, and as an African in the global context. She deals with prejudices and
systems that seem set against her people. The "Kings" in the title refer to three parallels -- the artist in the ecosystem, the Nigerian, and the global African.
“We the kings of future’s past awaken each day, in spite of the burial. They tried, they tried to bury us but they did not know that we will rise and take back our thrones. We will rock the cradle of civilization. The awakening has begun, the time is yesterday, today we rise.” - Stacey Okparavero (aka Ravvero)
About the Artists:
Etiyé Dimma Poulsen
Born in 1968, Etiyé Dimma Poulsen is an Ethiopian-born sculptor known for her work in ceramics. Orphaned at a young age, Poulsen lived in her native Ethiopia until she was six, and then moved to Tanzania and Kenya with her Danish adoptive parents. The family relocated from East Africa to Denmark when she was fourteen. In Denmark, she studied art history in college and taught art in youth programs. Initially focused on painting landscapes using oil on canvas, an interest in creating African traditionally inspired art spurred a move to France at age 23, where she began working with clay.
Her inspiration comes from traditional statues or tribal styles, but with her own feelings and memories worked into them. Poulsen is most known for creating filiform ceramic sculptures. Her technique consists of applying a thin layer of clay to an iron mesh, to produce distressed-looking “primitive” figures, when fired.
"What really seduces me are the different variations of human features," says Poulsen. "The more simple and sober my forms are, the more expressive they seem. If you take a close look at the sculptures, you may be surprised to find the expressions on the faces are generated by cracked lines that trace an eye or a wrinkle. Through corrosion, fragmentation and contrasting sensations, expressions of life emerge, achieving strong and delicate features simultaneously.”
Poulsen's works are held in the collection of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, USA and by many private collectors.
Poulsen lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.
Stacey Ejiroghene Okparavero
Stacey Ejiroghene Okparavero is a Nigerian artist who was born in her country’s Delta State. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art at the University of Lagos, and completed postgraduate studies in the history and business of the contemporary art market at the Institute d’Etudes Superieures des Arts in Paris, and the University of Warwick in the UK. Today, Okparavero is a full-time artist, art curator and yoga teacher.
She draws audiences into her art through the use of original shapes and many types of mediums -- including watercolours, acrylics, pastels, plastocasting, ivorex, video art, bronze casting, performances – all which allow her to enlighten and engage better with the viewer. Her art addresses diverse social, political and emotional issues, challenging perceptions, beliefs and assumptions, and transcending cultural boundaries.
Okparavero, also artistically referred to as Stacey Ravvero, has participated in many high-profile group exhibitions in Nigeria, several in the USA and the UK. She was acclaimed at the 2016 Dakar Biennale for a performance piece, “La Puissance du Toucher”. To connect with attendees during “La Puissance”, she encouraged the audience to use her back as a virtual template while she transformed their feelings into paintings on canvas, creating a unique and highly interactive mixture of performance and visual art.
Okparavero’s works are included in private and corporate collections in Russia, the USA, the UK, France, and Nigeria. Her art is also exhibited in public collections, including at the Bruce Onobrakpeya Arts Foundation in Nigeria. She recently completed a residency in Nairobi, where she was influenced by the Kenyan political environment, while furthering her interest in exploring the complexities of the mind.
Okparavero lives and works in Nigeria.