Exhibition: Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)
Curated by: Azu Nwagbogu
Opening: 25th November 2021, from 5pm until 9pm
Dates: Exhibition open until January 29th, from Wednesday to Saturday, between 3pm and 7pm
Place: R. Damasceno Monteiro, 12 R/C | 1170-112 – Lisbon
Artists: Zanele Muholi e Ayogu Kingsley
©️ Zanele Muholi.
In the aftermath of the Civil Liberties struggles of the sixties in the United States and the independent movement sweeping across Africa, the seventies offered a new epoch for Black artists in which they felt liberated to write, produce songs, art, host world events (FESTAC 77), boxing matches (Rumble in the jungle 74), music and literature that were not rooted in struggles but in Black joy, love, play, family whilst still subtly addressing societal injustices but more so from within, an intra-Black-experience and not as a reaction to “others” as it were. This idea of postmodern Blackness is reawakened today in contemporary visual culture through Black portraiture. Blackness has moved from existentialist angst towards natural reality, imagination, aspiration, fantasy and now nostalgia. A wistfulness for fragments of the past that guide and nourish the present and that sparks imagination is where we find ourselves. Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me) is a song by American soul group the Temptations. In this song, the iconic group fantasise about domestic bliss, the sort of utopic future that is firmly denied and disassociated from contemporary Back experience. Just My Imagination was an ode to the hope to live a simple easy family life. This exhibition presents a natural realism that is made visible through painting and photography as both mediums interact to dominate contemporary art today.
Zanele Muholi and Ayogu Kigngsley are contemporary artists with hopes and aspirations shaped by fragments of their childhood understanding of the Black African experience. It is an attempt to recreate the acts of resignation towards emancipatory fantasies shaped by difficult childhood memories, stories visual culture and histories. As the psychedelic soul tunes of the eponymous signature of Temptations released in 1971, the artist fuse and cut imaginary and reality to confront the self. Sliding between vulnerable self-exploration and bold statements each artwork challenges the normative archetypes and behavioural patterns dictated by the contemporary culture.
Each visual narrative presents the image of self. Whether through performative self-photography, hyper realistic painting, – the bold mediums chosen by the artists allow a space for the courage to break out of servitude.
Zanele Muholi is a visual activist, humanitarian and photographer born in Umlazi, Durban. They currently live and work in Umbumbulu. Muholi’s self-proclaimed mission is ‘to re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in SA and beyond’. They are currently building the first dedicated arts school in KwaZulu Natal. They (Muholi’s preferred pronoun) co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002, and in 2009, also founded Inkanyiso (www.inkanyiso.org), a forum for queer and visual (activist) media. They continue to train and co-facilitate photography workshops for young women in the townships. Muholi studied Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and in 2009 completed an MFA: Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto. In 2013, they became an Honorary Professor at the University of the Arts/Hochschule für Künste Bremen.
Ayogu Kingsley Ifeanyichukwu is a Nigerian artist known for his hyperrealist style. Born in Enugu, the eastern part of Nigeria, Ayogu developed interest in painting and art from a very young age. This led him to studying painting and graphics at Enugu State College of Education (Technical). Ayogu’s work can be described as stunning, lens-like detail oriented, depicting situations with a wide spectrum of displayed emotions through tears, despair and affinity. The viewer of his pieces is compelled to feel to be connected to the paintings.
Azu Nwagbogu is the Founder and Director of African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), a non- profit organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria. Nwagbogu was appointed as the Interim Director/ Head Curator of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in South Africa from June 2018 to August 2019. Nwagbogu also serves as Founder and Director of LagosPhoto Festival, an annual international arts festival of photography held in Lagos. He is the publisher of Art Base Africa, a virtual space to discover and learn about contemporary art from Africa and its diasporas. Nwagbogu is a curator with a special interest in future museology.