John Hansard Gallery announces solo exhibitions with Ayo Akingbade and Billie Zangewa
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John Hansard Gallery announces solo exhibitions with Ayo Akingbade and Billie Zangewa
Faluyi (still), 2022 © Ayo Akingbade. Courtesy the artist. From the solo exhibition 'Show Me The World Mister'.

SOUTHAMPTON .- John Hansard Gallery, part of the University of Southampton, is currently presenting 'Show Me The World Mister', a solo exhibition by London-based artist Ayo Akingbade. Comprising two new films, alongside a series of new prints and archival imagery, the exhibition builds upon the artist’s continued interest in history, placemaking, legacy, economics, and power.

The exhibition’s title suggests a power dynamic, on one level someone is instructing the other, implying that one occupies power, whilst the other does not – but which one? Furthermore, the title suggests that one can be shown the world through the eyes of another, shaped and formed through their lived experiences. Filmed on location The Fist and Faluyi, Akingbade presents ‘the world’ as Nigeria, and are the artist’s most ambitious and prevailing productions to date.

Shot on 35mm film, The Fist is an intimate portrait of a modernist style factory – the first Guinness brewery built outside of the UK and Ireland. Completed in 1962, in the wake of Nigeria’s independence from Britain, the factory is a site where interwoven histories of industrialisation and labour are brought into focus. Observing the daily activity of workers and the factory’s assembly lines, Akingbade acutely highlights the deep-rooted politics embedded in the beverage’s production.

Faluyi, follows protagonist Ife (played by Victory Emordi) as she embarks on a meditative journey tracing familial legacy and mysticism within ancestral land. Shot on 16mm film in the Idanre Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Ondo State and the birthplace of Akingbade’s parents, the film is an introspective contemplation of her own personal observational relationship with Nigeria. Panoramic views of bouldering hills surrounded by thick groves form the backdrop to a sensitive tale of loss and longing, turned hope and celebration.

In addition, John Hansard Gallery will also screen Akingbade’s 2018 work, A is for Artist. Filmed in London, and a stark contrast to the location of The Fist and Faluyi, the short film follows the narrative of a young woman who assembles photographs from her family archive to encourage the pursuit of being an artist. A series of prints accompany the exhibition that reference the artist’s broad interest in portraiture and printmaking.

Facing out onto Southampton’s Guildhall Square, Gallery 3’s floor-to-ceiling windows will host a photograph from Akingbade’s father’s personal archive. At seven metres high, the image is an arresting introduction to Show Me The World Mister.

Running simultaneously, John Hansard Gallery presents 'A Quiet Fire', by Malawian/South African artist Billie Zangewa. Showing in association with Brighton CCA, this is the first major exhibition of works in the UK. A Quiet Fire challenges the historical stereotypes used to objectify and exploit Black women. Zangewa’s autobiographical yet universal work contrasts melancholy with hope, strength with disdain, and independence with prejudice.

The exhibition features a specially commissioned, panoramic collage made from hand-stitched silk: an epic, site-specific seascape for which Zangewa has adopted the format and scale of the classical canon, from grand tapestries to history painting, to chronicle the experience of the marginalised and under-represented. As well as this new commission, the exhibition features a selection of Zangewa’s earlier works that show an intimate, confident sense of self and female identity; described by Zangewa as ‘acts of daily feminism’. These works led her to think more critically about how women view themselves and what the visualization of the female gaze, through self-portraiture, could look like.

Zangewa’s intricate figurative collages of hand-stitched fragments of raw silk, challenge the historical stereotypes of objectification and exploitation of Black women. From her earliest works (depicting remembered botanical scenes from Botswana), Zangewa has transitioned to cityscapes, focusing on her experience as a woman in the city of Johannesburg. These works are reflective of both a domestic life and her determination to be seen on her own terms, and they speak powerfully to the artists’ ongoing mission to challenge the mainstream cultural, racial and social silos in which Black women are placed.

The exhibition was initiated by, and is presented in partnership with Brighton CCA, and is accompanied by a newly commissioned fictional text by author Deesha Philyaw. Following its showing at John Hansard Gallery, the exhibition will be shown at Tramway, Glasgow in Autumn 2023. A Quiet Fire has been made possible through the generous support of Lehmann Maupin Gallery.

John Hansard Gallery

Ayo Akingbade: Show Me The World Mister
3 June – 9 September 2023

Billie Zangewa: A Quiet Storm
3 June – 9 September 2023

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