We Are Re-agents’ explores the idea of an African Renaissance premised on the knowledge of the past to inform a new vision of the future. In this new body of work, Ayoola writes a visual letter to his generation and those generations coming after, who are interested in going back to the roots and connecting with the past – traditionally and culturally – to understand the present and utilise the knowledge to inform the future.
Drawing inspiration from dreamscapes, history and memories, this fascinating series is Ayoola's response to the global pandemic and the subsequent rising socio-political issues generated and elevated by the crisis, raising questions on cultural identity and his place as a black man in the world.
Ayoola invites us to connect with our past and as people, bridging the generational gaps in our communication and our stories.
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AYOOLA: IN HIS OWN WORDS
"Sometime in April 2020 , the whole lockdown and COVID scare got to me and I started seeing black as a color in my visions. Literally every time I feel like painting , the black color was getting in my view. I was surrounded at that time being mostly at home alone, with plants ( flowers ) in the house and I found myself relating with them like humans! I mean with more life about them than just plants. It was like they could talk back to me and share in the pain and stress I was feeling at that time. And much like my art, I wanted to paint them and share my experience with them and because I was seeing a lot of stuff in black at that time, I decided to paint these flowers all in the same black color surrounded with some colors.
It’s like every living thing wanted to wear that black color to reflect what they’re going through. To show their feeling. Then came the black lives matter and racial issues from the USA spreading like wild fire across the world and throwing me back into that dungeon of certain realities about who I am as a black man in the world. The struggle even as a black man on the African continent. The battle of the common man on the African soil didn’t help matters either. The brutality against the common man from the government institutions such as the police in Nigeria. The corruption that have so plagued my nation for so long. This, I have experienced since I was born in Nigeria. Also the need for the world to see these realities of a Black man. I wanted the world to see so much blackness and get used to it. To accept it beyond just the color but a reality that nature has got out here, that creation has put here and it’s not going anywhere but one that the world must accept and live with.
I wanted to put so much blackness out there through my work in the face of all that’s living. I started reading more about the black man’s realities and why it’s important for the world to see it, live with it and accept it. This now led me back to 2018 when I saw my generation like guerrilla soldiers. A generation that keeps trying to survive against bad leadership on the continent and my country Nigeria. This generation have interest in going back to the root of the matters. To connect with our past; traditionally and culturally. Who we really are as a people and the importance of connecting with that so as to understand our present and prepare for the desired future. We’ve realized dearth of information regarding our history due to poor documentation of our past as a people and we are also conscious of the dangers of making the same mistakes of past generations even now, so that the future generations will not miss out on their history like we did. The dots on the paintings represent this dearth. My generation and the ones after us , have come to act as Reagents whose commission is to bring a consciousness that we are the change that is expected. We must let our history teach us how to handle our present and future. Documentation must improve. Our History must be taught in schools. Our language and all forms of communication must be preserved and the use must be encouraged. A people without the knowledge of who they are, have already lost their way in the journey called life."
"I believe that understanding of human anthropology is the beginning of a possible state of utopia even though this may be a dream, but dreams do come true. Sometimes."
The painting Dualism is about the necessary self analysis and self reflection that is needed to understand the responsibility we have as humans to our society and the world we live in. Do we think beyond ourselves and our immediate needs ?
Are we concerned about others ? Do we feel responsible to earth herself ? Do we look at ourselves in the mirror and score ourselves well on our positive contributions to making sure we have a better world ?
The symbols and pictographs in the painting , represent various parts of human anthropology from biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology.
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AYOOLAINTERVIEW FOR ART X SOLO Listen to Ayoola speak about his practice and the inspiration for the new body of work in the solo exhibition presented by Kanbi Projects at Art X Lagos, 2021.
Ayoola is Nigerian-based painter and sculptor best known for merging figuration, abstraction and traditional motifs in his work with a focus on abstract expressionism and surrealism. Through a practice spanning 20 years, Ayoola continues to question the issue of cultural identity and placement, taking inspiration from the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology, seeking the past and the lost to guide current action.
Ayoola received his BA in Fine and Applied Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria and later completed a residency with renowned Nigerian painter Tola Wewe. He has exhibited across Africa as well as in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States and his works can be found in major corporate and private collections including the World Bank, African Finance Corporation and the Nigerian National Gallery of Arts.