Chukwudubem Ukaigwe, Matthew Imuetiyan & Emmanuel Amoo

I NO BE GENTLEMAN (AT ALL O) , 30 June – 15 August 2021

[Chorus]
I no be gentleman at all o
I be Africa man original
I no be gentleman at all o
I be Africa man original
I no be gentleman at all o
I be Africa man original

[Verse 2]
You dey go your way, the jeje way
Somebody come bring, original trouble
You no talk, you no act, you say you be gentleman
You go suffer, you go tire, you go quench
Me I no be gentleman like that

I No Be Gentleman (at all o), on view from June 30 – August 15, 2021, brings together the works of three emerging Nigerian artists Chukwudubem Busayo Ukaigwe, Matthew Eguavoen Imuetiyan and Emmanuel Amoo, introducing a new wave of interest in going against the prescribed status quo and forging a new, broader constellation of African identities and representations.

The title of the exhibition, I No Be Gentleman (at all o) finds its roots in the 1973 Afrobeat album Gentleman, and soundtrack of the same title, by Nigerian bandleader, controversial and disruptive activist, Fela Kuti. The lyrics cheerfully mock the pretensions of a “gentleman” who wears stifling Western clothing under the scorching African sun: “He go sweat all over,” Kuti predicts. Gentleman denounces the legacy of colonialism, European ideals and Westernized constructs and cultures. Kuti’s commentary calls for the African – man and woman – to take possession of his or her own identity and authenticity, and break away from predominantly Westernized indoctrinations.

In their eponymous group exhibition, Ukaigwe, Imuetiyan and Amoo perpetuate artistic practices that attempt to frame their own notion of African aesthetics. Exposing sociocultural identities and economic discrepancies, they point to the effects of neocolonialism and to the resulting politics of material and conceptual decolonization.

Ukaigwe consciously uses a variety of mediums to relay a plurality of ideas at any given time. He views his art practice as a conversation, or a portal into one, and in some instances, as an interpretation of an ongoing exchange in researching semiotic possibilities and diverse mechanisms of meaning. Ukaigwe’s work semantically interrogates contemporary themes and their association to the canon, premising and borrowing his concepts from experimental music, chiefly jazz music. The matrix of his practice is to provide a platform for individual analysis of work or of an idea and for revealing a transcendent relational meaning between multiple works or ideas positioned together in space.

Imuetiyan’s focal concern hangs in the impact of his work on his immediate environment, and on the world at large. Fascinated by individuals’ reactions to their surroundings and how it affects their response to life, his art centers around societal, political and economic imbalances. Imuetiyan’s large-scale portraits hold a strong, striking gaze, as each of his models embody bold, unwavering stares. Through these eyes, the artist projects identity formation, mental health, gender constructs, the societal and governmental impact on both the “common man” and the “affluent.”

Amoo is a contemporary surrealist who specializes in the use of pastels, graphite, charcoal and acrylics. His art is primarily inspired by human emotions and tenderness in an environment that is at once sociocultural and sociopolitical. In his work, Amoo strives to define a new space where self-expression at any given time is acceptable. This new body of work centers around major sociocultural current issues and the pervasive influence of digital, mainly social, media. Ultimately, Amoo’s creative process calls to an attempt to unveil, in his viewers and more broadly, authentic emotions concealed in a society governed by the art of hiding one’s true nature under pressured smiles and forced toxicity.

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