Header Image: Blue Room Dinner by Ndidi Emefiele
Life is difficult to predict. It often throws unexpected obstacles our way. As much as we try to conquer the world and all its variables, much of it remains unconquerable. It’s a word that artist Ndidi Emefiele, along with curator Amy Andrieux, has chosen to describe Eefiele’s body of works.
Ndidi Emefiele is an artist born and raised in Nigeria. She incorporates many parts of her culture into her works, especially of the women she is inspired by. Her portraits of women come in all shapes and sizes, going through a range of motion and emotion. Hosted by the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art (MoCADA), this retrospective virtual exhibition gives us a glimpse at the inspiration behind Emefiele’s paintings.
Inspired by the likes of Frida Kahlo, David Hockney, and Salvador Dali, Emefiele plays with surrealist, colorful, sometimes abstract elements within her works. She also incorporates elements of Nigerian culture into her works by using textiles and other traditional materials. She also uses the collage technique to create surrealistic imagery and play with textures.
The artist has a distinct style of playing with the proportions of the figures in her paintings. Sporting almost cartoonishly bigger heads, Efemiele draws attention towards the face, therefore the identity, of the women in her paintings. According to the artist, “Physically and emotionally covered up, [a northern Nigerian woman] has to grow into a role that is already carved out for her from infancy. It was normal for a while but it didn’t take long before I began to feel a need to revolt using my work.” As a result, the identities of the women in her paintings are never hidden, proudly displaying their emotions to the world.
Many of her paintings are directly confrontational. Walking through the virtual exhibition, we see many works featuring women sitting and staring directly at the viewer, almost daring them to say something about the way the women in the paintings look, sit, or behave. Loungers, for instance, features four figures, dressed to the nines, all staring at the same thing: the viewer. But it’s not all bright colors and confrontational images, either. Emefiele explores the softer, more vulnerable sides of women as well. A painting titled Awake is strangely muted in comparison to the others in the room, a melancholy radiating from the figure of a woman almost dejectedly looking down at the offerings before her. The color palette is softer and the figure less expressive. It’s soft and quiet, but no less powerful than the other images.
Her body of works encompasses all facets of a Black woman’s life. Through her images, she shows Black women as independent full beings who can laugh, cry, fear, and lead their own lives. Every painting is a celebration of Black girl joy.
Ndidi Emefiele has encountered many different challenges in life. Time after time, she rises up to the challenge to capture these moments and creates commentaries on life’s unconquerable expression.
This retrospective is presented by the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation and The Ford Foundation. You can visit Ndidi Emefiele: Unconquerable by clicking the link below.