Ngozi Schommers: the way we mask
From November 2 to 14, Ngozi Schommers will present her second solo exhibition, the way we mask, at the National Museum, Lagos. The exhibition features new large scale works created with perforated paper, confetti, sequins, watercolour, acrylic, and fibre, and an installation comprising of fifty-eight drawings.
Curated by Nigerian artist and curator Wura-Natasha Ogunji, the way we mask expands the body of work by Schommers, focusing on memories, culture and identity. She returns to memories of time passed to look in-depth at how hair shapes the identity of Africans. She explores what existed before today’s hair culture, as well as the meanings of the hairstyles.
Schommers conceptualises spaces where the understanding of identity and the ideals of beauty are far removed from representations constructed in recent times. She states that “The discussions on hairstyles of Africans are often overshadowed by colonial history, Western representation and perception of our culture with no regards to pre-colonial history. For my research on these works, among other references, I engaged with pre-colonial Igbo hairstyles through the archival images of Agbogho Mmuo (maiden spirit mask), using Internet sources and the book ‘Among the Ibos of Nigeria’ by George Thomas Basden.”
Beyond examining pre-colonial archives and the images of Agbogho Mmuo, Schommers delved into photographs from her childhood to study the hairstyles of her mother and other women. She found striking similarities between then and now. Regarding this connection, Ogunji writes in the curatorial statement, “We began with a photograph of stylish women in wigs. How could they know that their image would have a place in this future, that their simple pose would inspire the markings and makings of a daughter yet-to-be-born? It is this return and remembrance that so eloquently frames the work before us now, and the work we do as artists in the world. We give ourselves to the ‘widening circles.’”
Born in 1974, Ngozi Schommers is a Nigerian-German artist based in Germany and Ghana. Her work focuses on subjects of identity, equality, memory, culture, migration and colonialism. She uses the body and experiences of the female gender, archival materials and memories of her childhood in tackling these subjects. As an artist living between West Africa and Europe, she incorporates experiences of both locations in her work and further expands the discourse on the past and present relations between the two regions. The artistic outcome is a combination of installations with media such as paper, paint, charcoal, fibre, photography and performance. These she manipulates to draw new forms and parallel meanings.
In 2018, she was an artist-in-residence at Arthouse Foundation in Lagos. She researched and presented works titled Ìgwè bụ ényí (There is Strength in Numbers), examining motherhood, infertility, and the choices women make around family planning.
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