A few streets away from Eko Atlantic City, the doors to the exhibition halls of Gallery B57 are open, revealing a black and white portrait of Instagram Influencer, Sanchan.
Last year, during the global lockdown, Nigerian-born international visual artist, Ade Adekola, made an open call on Instagram for people who were interested in having their photographs turned into portraits. He opened a sign-up form with a commitment to do 30 portraits, but when he opened the form two hours later, the number of requests had exceeded 80. He had to close the call immediately to avoid being overwhelmed.
During the process of creating the portraits—all 80 of them—he was able to improve his creative process, developing new techniques that helped him optimise the way he worked. He took the original photographs shared by interested persons, stripped them of all colours, turning them into black and white. He then turned them into engravings, before shading, cutting, and colouring them. Optimising this process, coupled with the overwhelmingly positive feedback he received from his 80 selected muses, encouraged him to create more portraits.
In the end, Adekola created 700 portraits, but there are only 40 portraits with striking designs and a collage of all 700 portraits on display at the exhibition halls of the gallery.
The allure of the 40 portraits on display, chosen by Adekola for their unique poses, circumstance or personal resonance to the subject, was elevated by presenting it in lightboxes.
Now titled Lockdown Portraits, his project would go on to form a part of his exhibition titled, Dislocation &… alongside Anthology of an African Wedding and Diaspora Axis.
Opening up conversations for dislocated people
Dislocation &… is an exhibition featuring NFT art, 3D textiles and augmented reality and events that feature creators from Tokyo, Israel and Singapore on social media and other digital collaborative platforms.
The artworks in the exhibition were conceived, executed and completed during the year-long lockdown, exploring and amplifying the effects of dislocation on humanity.
In Diaspora Axis, Adekola took a blend of various nationalities and used it to create a textile design. Ade set out to give agency to people with double or more nationalities, who were confused about their “true identities”.
“So, the inspiration for the anthology series, from that disability perspective, are people who had an emotional roadmap, and that roadmap was truncated. I just open up the space for you to enter and think about what may or could have happened.”
The design was adopted by an Israeli company to create and display dresses. Using 3D, over 70 design patterns are shown to consumers. “So, when you buy it, they send the physical garment to you, all cut,” Adekola explained.
A pandemic is a form of dislocation to Adekola, who said, “I’m trying to explore the different kinds of dislocation forces. So, the pandemic is a kind of dislocation where people are in isolation—a prolonged one.”
Buying African emotional entanglement
Anthology of an African Wedding collection explores dislocation from the angle of emotional entanglement in Yoruba wedding cultures. The Yoruba nation hails from the southwest region of Nigeria, and their wedding culture is colourful, vibrant, and in many ways, extravagant.
Viewable using augmented reality, Anthology of an African Wedding collection brings viewers a step closer to experiencing a Yoruba wedding with its traditional gowns, headgear and rings.
Adekola has evolved his art using Photoshop for over 20 years, creating over 20,000 texture designs that he used to create Anthology of an African Wedding. Anthology of an African Wedding, which also sells as an NFT on OpenSea, consists of 18 art pieces—9 showing traditional wedding scenes and 9 white wedding ones.
Dislocation &… is on display at Gallery B57 until December 1st.