Layers of Memory

In the United States the curator of an exhibition called Storylines, Professor Francine Farr, wrote in an open Thank You letter to its artist, Victor Ekpuk: “You gave us refreshingly current, sympathetic insights to Africa and African art, reminding us of art’s origins in our shared humanity and its power to heal, enlighten and inspire altruistic action… (It is) the most socially and historically significant exhibition I have curated.”

Though born in Nigeria, Victor Ekpuk has lived in the Netherlands and Benin, and is currently based in Washington DC. He is a global artist and says: “The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity.” Add to this other concepts that are clearly deeply meaningful to him such as fatherhood, an almost reverential respect for women, the proverbs, folklore and aesthetic legacies of his Ibibio ancestors, the hustle and bustle of street-life and marketplace, as well as the lack of accountability not only in his native Nigeria, but of much of the modern world – and you begin to get the message behind the work of Victor Ekpuk that represents highly important concerns for him.

This autumn, Ekpuk has his first solo show in London, Portraits, a series of paintings and drawings exploring the essence of self. “According to African philosophy, “ he says, “The head is the seat of consciousness and memory. And our lives on earth are guided by its disposition. These portraits ponder this notion while expressing my interest in consciousness, individual and collective identities. I am intrigued by the nature of humans’ self-knowledge as layers of memories that are constantly transposed, appropriated and imagined. I believe that our identities are essentially the sum of past and present memories that are shaped by circumstances. These portraits are perhaps a search for the essence of ourselves.”



Full article published in Omenka magazine issue 6


Originally trained as a photographer, Juliet Highet lived in East & West Africa as well as India, subsequently also travelling to 52 countries. In Nigeria she began writing professionally and on her return to UK began editing books and magazines. Highet is widely published on travel, the arts, perfumery and much more. She is the author of Frankincense: Oman’s Gift to the World, and a specialist in contemporary Arab culture and its heritage.

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