Adjani Okpu-Egbe: This Is the Place and Time

1 Jun 2023 – 30 Jun 2023

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Save Event: Adjani Okpu-Egbe: This Is the Place and Time5

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Sulger-Buel Lovell

London, United Kingdom


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  • Southwark
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The exhibition This Is the Place and Time highlights a selection of mixed-media works created by Adjani Okpu-Egbe in the last ten years. Amidst a cohesion of a wide range of themes and diverse artistic interventions, these works encompass the multilayered trajectory of this artist's practice. The exhibition focuses on how the artist explores notions of space and time as a means to construct a platform for exposing the historical injustices and the global imbalances of power affecting black communities and envisaging change through activism.

Adjani Okpu-Egbe is a multidisciplinary artist of the African diaspora born in 1979 in Kumba in Southern Cameroons, also known as Ambazonia, who lives and works in London. Through the selection of artworks, the exhibition explores various themes related to African history, archaeology, Panafricanism, the African diaspora, political activism and feminism blended with autobiographical references. The coexistence of such complex subjects illustrates how Okpu-Egbe's artistic practice aims to build an inclusive space for addressing global civil rights related to a heterogenous black experience.

At the first level of spatial analysis, these works showcase the artist's gradual pathway of incursion in the physical space. At first, the artist integrates found objects in the paintings pushing beyond the support's surface to address the marginalised African identities in society through discarded materials. The artist continued exploring space by painting on doors to evocate the liminal spaces of transition toward intellectual awareness and creating bookshelves installations around his paintings to amplify their reach and meanings through objects and books. Consequently, in his latest production, the artist further departs from bi-dimensionality by creating mixed media installations that, thanks to their environmental expansion, create more immediate spaces of physical engagement with the viewers.

At a deeper level, for the artist, the physical exploration of space becomes a strategy for attracting the audience's attention and thus creating a mental space for confrontation. Okpu-Egbe does not consider his work as an end in itself but as a means to create contact zones where separate sections of society can meet to develop sites of restorative justice in a prelude to implement change through action. In this sense, the artist's work can be considered a politically engaged practice. Effective artistic activism does not wish to convey a message unilaterally but incorporates social movement petitions interwoven in an imaginative space to raise doubts and project possibilities to construct the world differently.

Okpu-Egbe is loosely associated with the Afrosurrealist and Afrofuturist art movements, both developed in the 1990s. The artist shares a sensibility with these movements while simultaneously operating beyond any prefixed set of aesthetics and approaches. For instance, his adoption of surrealistic imagery is a strategic engagement tool to question reality and mould spaces of encounters. Firstly, metaphoric symbols can expand the audience's mental reach through the agency of interpreting the enigmatic imagery. Secondly, reading signs is an open-ended process, which can generate discussion among the public, creating a social space for debate. A debate in which the artist relishes participating through his titles which provide multiple ways of accessing his work.

The exhibition also explores the elastic nature of time in Okpu-Egbe's practice. The artist refuses a linear notion of time by excavating the past and projecting it onto the present to seek to carve a better future. In his work, Okpu-Egbe explores how historical events connected with colonialism engender the present condition of global injustice toward black people and depicts the present as a dynamic space of change where the future is within reach through social activism. The future for Okpu-Egbe does not assume the feature of speculative alternative reality. Instead, it resembles our time, where multiple time-flows encounter moulding a present where a past of oppression will happen in the future if society is not changed. For Okpu-Egbe, the future is in the past and can be activated only by the present action. Through his work, the artist modules a political time that coincides with a permanent and pressing right now because there is no other time.

For Okpu-Egbe, the artist's social responsibility is to shed light on sociopolitical and economic problems affecting the black communities, underscoring how activism, intervention and resistance characterise the artist's practice. The political nature of Okpu-Egbe's work demands questioning any preconceived rationalities to undermine the logic at the foundations of the neocolonial practices, which will endure any space and time limitations if they are not addressed. His form of intellectual defiance aims to deconstruct and expose the framework holding together the persistent authoritarian colonial system rooted in secular racism and envisage action as a path to achieve social fairness.

The intersection of the diverse thematics of the artworks part of the exhibition creates a design which unveils a suffocating system of knowledge the artist wishes to address through his work. In conclusion, the exhibition This Is The Place and Time presents Okpu-Egbe's latest production as a call to take meaningful action in the present that can spread to the future to eradicate the historical system of oppression affecting ubiquitously black communities worldwide through calculated artistic practices focused in the manipulation of space and time.

Giovanni Agostinelli

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Adjani Okpu-Egbe


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