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December 6, 2020

The Politics of Shared Spaces: Identity and Struggle in the Works of Eniwaye Oluwaseyi

Nigerian artist Eniwaye Oluwaseyi highlights the difficulties of shared spaces in a vibrant exploration of identities, narratives, and power struggles, questioning how and by whom these elements of a person are defined.

Just the second exhibition at the newly opened ADA \ contemporary art gallery in Accra, Ghana, The Politics of Shared Spaces is Oluwaseyi’s first solo exhibit, comprising twelve large-scale canvases of bold and colourful compositions.

Born in 1994, Oluwaseyi is a self-taught artist from Kogi State, working primarily in portraiture and impressionistic realism. His new body of work examines both literal and metaphorical communal spaces, from shared living areas to a shared mindset or community, within a critical framework, exploring narratives of race and class and their impact on these spaces and their inhabitants. Value judgements are obscured in Oluwaseyi’s works: each canvas is presented in a vacuum of uncertainty, leaving the prioritisation of each depicted space ambiguous. Injustice, racial conflicts, and the conflict between modern life and traditional norms are all folded into each piece, with the artist drawing on such current events as the Nigerian #ENDSARS movement.

The liminality of Oluwaseyi’s shared spaces is reflected in the people depicted within them, with members of marginalised communities taking the fore. From albinos to Black youths, Oluwaseyi emphasises the role of colour in our world with his vibrant palette, highlighting the majesty of the term “person of colour” in each of his subjects. Though the oil-on-canvas portraits feature delicate paint strokes, lending an elegance and vulnerability to the figures depicted, this delicacy is belied by the visual power of each painting, with the large scale and striking colours fostering a commanding presence. These are studies in how individuality makes up and represents the whole, connecting shared spaces with those who share them.

Though Oluwaseyi explores the struggles and politics of these spaces, his portraits nevertheless convey a sense of hope, speaking to the ability to overcome difficult circumstances with strength and grace. The exhibition at ADA \ will run November 27 – December 27, with an accompanying digital exhibition that delves into the artist’s inspiration and process; more information is available on the ADA \ website here.

If you liked this article, you may enjoy our feature on the Austrian Cultural Forum New York’s exhibition Spaces of No Control.

Artist Portraits: Courtesy of the artist and ADA \ contemporary art gallery
Artwork Images: Courtesy of the artist and ADA \ contemporary art gallery
Installation Images: Photography by Nii Odzenma. Courtesy of the artist and ADA \ contemporary art gallery
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