The first solo exhibition by Lisa Ijeoma (°1997) is a coherent whole of textile art and takes us on a mysterious nocturnal walk. Surrounded by bushes and tall trees a path, illuminated by the full moon, winds through urban fragments. Cut-outs of nature elements and architectural details flow peacefully into balanced compositions. A wrought-iron gate, vaults, pointed towers and a stained-glass window add to a surreal ambience as if stepping into a dream. In this scene two black figures arise without interrupting the desolate atmosphere. They are intertwined with the earth and the buildings and seem fused with this place. The artworks mainly consist of twilight colours, dark green, earth brown, midnight blue and shadow grey. It is a colour palette that evokes both aesthetics and mischief. Does Ijeoma takes us to a fairy-tale forest or to the jet- black depths of our shadow side?
For this new series Ijeoma uses found footage, which is characteristic of her working method. Although this time the image did not came her way through social media or news reports as for the BLM series. She captured the image with her own eyes. After an overwhelming visit to the AfricaMuseum, confronted with the tension, pain, and sorrow of the heavy colonial past, but also the richness and beauty of her father's continent, she decides to take a walk in the area. As a result of the African missions, Ijeoma's Nigerian family is Christian, which has given her a lifelong fascination for churches. The artist takes us to the church of Tervuren. Kitukwa, Ngemba, Ekia, Mpemba, Nzau, Sambo and Mibange are the titles of the seven individual works from the Under Their Stars series. They are also the seven names that the artist reads on the oddly placed, generic graves against the church wall. Silent witnesses of a terrible episode in our history. It is the final resting place of these Congolese who lost their lives during the World Exhibition in 1897. They were forcibly shipped along with more than two hundred others and exhibited in recreated villages where they had to depict daily life in Congo for colonial propaganda. Due to the appalling conditions, they did not survive this human zoo. Pure exploitation and racism are seemingly casual and without much explanation part of this landscape.
Ijeoma grabs hold of this image and translates horror, fear, trauma, and intergenerational pain with her own method. Slow and reflective, patchwork allows her to tell a story that is both personal and spiritual. The labour of handwork combined with the texture of textiles lead to “feelwork”, both literally and emotionally. The frayed edges endorse this intuitive method.
Fascinated by the human psyche, the artist takes time to experience the anecdotal and to visit layers of references, universal ideas, and the endlessness of violence. The nakedness of the depicted figures can be read as innocence and the wish that the deceased, despite their questionable resting place, be in a heavenly paradise. But also, as a reference to ethno porn: the oversexualization and exploitation of the black body. Human zoos are part of a Western culture of exoticism and contributed to contemporary racism. The voyeurism and the polarizing view on “the other” have not disappeared. These seductive artworks harbour a sharp activism and donate to the decolonization debate. In earth tone colours Ijeoma visits her roots and questions those of all of us. She seeks dialogue and creates with these scenic artworks healing blankets full of nuance and connection as a tribute to Kitukwa, Ngemba, Ekia, Mpemba, Nzau, Sambo and Mibange. The cold reality is swaddled in warm, soft material seeking hope and comfort under their and our stars.
Exhibitions & Events from Schönfeld Gallery | St-Gilles
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About Schönfeld Gallery | St-Gilles
Schönfeld Gallery was founded by art collector Elie Schönfeld in 2015. What started as a modest gallery space in Antwerp has become an established value in the Belgian and international art scene. Schönfeld Gallery consists of four spaces, each venue having its own atmosphere and objective.
Schönfeld Gallery | St-Gilles Opening Hours
DURING BGW : Thu 11 am > 9 pm Fri - Sat 11am - 7pm - Sun 11am - 6pm OTHER : Thursday > Saturday 2-6 pm