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2021 is a great year of reckoning for many Black women artists in the UK, from the great winner of the 2017 Turner Prize Lubaina Himid to critically acclaimed Sonia Boyce, but also for young and upcoming artists. And an amazing set of exhibitions allows us to enjoy their powerful work this summer and autumn.

It starts with the exceptional Mother of Mankind exhibition on view at the House Of Fine Arts Mayfair space in London, which is free and open until 31 August. The Ghanaian gallerist Adora Mba especially curated it to feature 16 global Black women artists, with each of them portraying a unique sense of what Black female consciousness can be. Mother of Mankind is a reference to the African continent as the origin of humanity, the exhibition creates cross-continental dialogues around the subject of Black femininity.
Adora Mba is the founder and director of ADA contemporary art gallery, established in Accra, Ghana, in 2020. She felt privileged to “showcase the works of these remarkably talented artists in one of the cities I call home”, she said. The artists presented in this show are in the early days of their artistic careers, yet they are “already making waves and drawing attention amidst an industry, which tends to be more supportive of their male counterparts,” Adora added.

Adora Mba

Adora Mba

 Joined together in a virtual discussion, the artists’ works compose a reflection of different parts of the African continent and its diaspora, from Nigeria to South Africa, the UK, the USA, and Canada. Featured works by award-winning artists, such as Emma Prempeh (British artist based in London), Jamilla Okubo (an interdisciplinary artist exploring the intricacies of belonging to an American, Kenyan, and Trinidadian identity) and Adebunmi Gbadebo (born and based in New Jersey).


Emma Prempeh, ‘Nanabaa’

Emma Prempeh, ‘Nanabaa’

I visited the gallery on the 23rd of July and could immediately feel that the curator definitely united powerful pieces. This exhibition is the result of years of work with young women artists, from a curator with a deep interest in promoting Black painters. With ‘Spectators’, Cece Phillips reverses the gaze, showing African women in a gallery looking at a painting depicting naked white people. Jamilla Okubo’s ‘I do not come to you as a reality. I come to you as The Myth’ shines with a bright red background, sunbeams and a golden bird overlooking its characters. And Emma Prempeh’s portraits of missed relatives, including the artist’s grandmother, covered in gold, represent the feeling of separation haunting every transatlantic family. Curators from the arts organisation V.O Curations said of Prempeh’s paintings that her main subject, “family and generational continuity”, explores and questions relational ties in a search for spirituality enabling her to analyse existential questions about memory, ancestral ties, and human fear of death.


Cece Philips, ‘Spectators’

Cece Philips, ‘Spectators’

 The shows display of work by a young generation of artists includes Ekene Emeka-Maduka (b. 1996 in Nigeria, working in Winnipeg, Canada), Cece Philips (self-taught visual artist based in London), Chinaza Agbor (from Texas, USA), Ayobola Kekere-Ekun and Marcellina Akpojotor (both from Nigeria), Brixton-based British-Nigerian artist Sola Olulode, Ohio-based Alexandria Couch, Muofhe Manavhela (multi-disciplinary visual artist based in Johannesburg), Cinthia Sifa Mulanga (b. in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997), Mookho Ntho (from Lesotho), Bria Fernandes (USA), Sophia Oshodin (self-taught figurative storytelling painter based in London), Damilola Onosowbo Marcus (from Lagos), Nigerian British artist Tobi Alexandra Falade and Dimakatso Mathopa (b. in 1995 in Mpumalanga, South Africa).

Some of these artists will also be part of the 1-54 London African Art Fair in London in October 2021.

MELISSA CHEMAM

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