[ Lagos, Nigeria ::: b. 1987 – Onitsha, Nigeria ]
REWA was born and raised between Nigeria and England and received a BSc. in Physiology and Pharmacology from University College London (UCL). She currently works as the Head of Corporate Development and Investor Relations for a Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed company. Prior to this, she was the Specialty Insurance Executive for Old Mutual West Africa and a Management Consultant at Accenture (UK).
Never having received formal art training, she is self-taught and developed her innate talent from a very early age. Growing up, her father encouraged her creative drive, his expansive art collection from West Africa, providing further impetus for her development. Her formal training as a physiologist / pharmacologist at UCL also prepared her for what has become an exciting journey; she learned to observe in greater detail and to seek deeper meaning. She knew a few truths about what ignited a frenzy - when going for long stretches creating art with a particular song or artist playing on a continuous loop - but still sought a clear “artistic direction". She finds that her spirit is neither moved by what she refers to as "depicted sentience" and through the celebration of the female form and bright, vivid colours. Her preferred medium of acrylics and watercolours on cartridge paper provides the immediacy, proximity and transparency to express her most personal experiences and influences living between Lagos, London and Johannesburg, cities she considers home.
REWA decided to pursue art as a form of catharsis following a nadir. She created her first 14-piece body of work, The Pantheon, celebrating Nigerian deities, which was very well received and led to her appointment as ReLe Gallery’s 2017 Young Contemporary in Lagos, Nigeria. In this same year, the prestigious Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) in Mayfair, London invited REWA to participate in a joint exhibition, Her Story: Sisterhood That Transcends, alongside a acclaimed Dutch photographer, Dagmar van Weeghel. Her collection, Onicha Ado N’Idu delved into the significance of naming rites and traditions within the Igbo culture in Nigeria – how the names shape the identity of the individuals they are bestowed upon.
REWA’s work was featured at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, New York as part of MoCADA’s annual 2017 gala. Most recently, the School of African & Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London, in conjunction with Cambridge University, approached REWA to work as one of the visual creatives for their upcoming three-year long Colonial Archives project. She has finally found her truth in a voice that is unique to her, one that has induced prolonged frenzies and abundant hours of introverted happiness and zen. For REWA, art creation is synonymous with catharsis and her creations are her life's diary.
The Igbos are one of the three major tribes of Nigeria and comprise the largest group of people living in south-eastern region of the country. How a culture survives depends on its people’s capacity to learn and transmit it to succeeding generations. I hope to provide viewers with an understanding of who we are as a people and educate about this rich legacy and my country as a whole. A lot of my generation within the diaspora, myself included, are losing elements of our heritage therefore, I would like to perpetuate key elements of Igbo traditions and language through my art.
Women also inspire my art and are at the core of it all. I have so many adjectives I can attach to women and the potent female form; women give birth to life, women are society's vertebrae. I want my audience, whether male or female, to look at one of my women and be able to identify with her story and the meaning behind her name. I want her to represent a message, a memory, a story or a prayer for the viewer.
My most recent exhibition held at the Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) in London was titled, “Onicha Ado N’Idu: Naming Rites & Traditions of the Igbos of Nigeria”. I would like to continue in this vein, drawing on elements of cultural awareness and audience education. Having very recently undergone both traditional and white (western) marriage ceremonies myself, I am keen to depict and highlight the now obsolete marital practices of the Igbos & educate my generation and a wider audience, on the symbolic practices of our forebears before it is lost to us entirely. My current collection, INU NWUNYE (Bride Price) showcases a female child’s passage from INYO- UNO – the introduction ceremony, which heralds a betrothal through to IGO MUO and INU- MMANYA – the wedding & (palm) wine-carrying ceremony. Many of these traditions have since died out. As the old adage says – old order changeth yielding place to the new. Cultural customs faded to the pervasive western systems but some lingering elements of yesteryear still constitute a solid foundation upon which the marriage rites are operated today. Current western practices of marriage in Igboland are a superstructure imposed on the underpinnings of indigenous betrothal & engagement practices.