The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) is pleased to present CONVERSATIONS + THE WOMAN CODE, a solo exhibition featuring two series of stunning photographs by the Nigerian artist Àsìkò.
Àsìkò’s conceptual photographs sensitize the viewer to the consequences of violence against women. The first half of the exhibition, ‘Conversations’, is comprised of entrancing, but ominous portraits that depict differing types of violence and their impact on the female form. The second half, ‘The Woman Code’, is a unique exploration into classic Adire indigo textiles of the Yoruba people of south-western Nigeria, and their female creators, by symbolically transposing Adire patterns onto human forms. Both projects showcase the parallel but contrasting impacts of patriarchal systems and womanhood in African societies.
To create ‘Conversations’, Àsìkò devoted two years to observation and research of violence against women and its confluence with West African culture. As he rediscovered these aspects of his heritage, Àsìkò was impacted by a patriarchal system that uses culture as a tool to ensure its durability, by suppressing female expression and sexuality. In his images, flowers and plants serve as symbolic expressions of culture, representing beauty, fragility and destructive power, likened by Àsìkò to the role of culture in other male- dominated societies.
Each image in both series is a symbolic representation of violence directed at women, its intersection with culture, while concurrently exploring its physical and psychological contours. Belying its artistic beauty, Àsìkò’s work contains undercurrents of repulsive acts of female gender violence and repression – genital mutilation, breast ironing, forced marriage, sexual slavery. Dancers and performance artists symbolize movement and disposition in his portrayals of culture and how these influences intersect with these controlling rites and practices of patriarchal societies.
Àsìkò introduces ‘Conversations’ thus:
“I used photography as my form of exploration, in conjunction with
digital body painting to emphasise the effects of gender violence.”
The second collection, ‘The Woman Code’, contains conceptual images that transfer the complex motifs of the Adire textiles of Nigeria’s Yoruba community onto the female form, reflecting women’s stories, their beliefs and their pleasures.
Over time, Adire patterns have evolved as primary symbols of the resistance of Yoruba women to patriarchal rule. Traditionally, women in this society have not been allowed to express themselves in public, and some might argue that the status of many of them has not changed appreciably in modern Nigeria.
Through his images, Àsìkò aims to restore the symbols to their truest origin, stripping them from the indigo fabric and projecting them onto the female form. The Yoruba women in his images wear their secrets openly and express them as they deem appropriate. Through the portraits in ‘The Woman Code’, Àsìkò helps to demonstrate how the ingenuity of the Yoruba community has created both internationally-renowned artistic designs and a social movement.