REWA

Nwa Agbo: Entering Adolescence

new paintings

April 17 - May 23, 2019

REWA

JI | The most prized YAM, 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

47.75h x 36w in

 

JI, the yam tuber, is considered “King of Crops” in Igboland. Celebrated between August and October, “Iwa Ji”, the New Yam Festival, is the most important event in the calendar of Igboland. In likening my subject to JI, her importance as a young woman in society is thus cemented, suggesting that she is the symbolical yam.

REWA

OBODO OYIBO | Return from the FOREIGN LAND, 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

48h x 35.75w in

 

In keeping with the current practices of affluent Igbo parents whereby their children are sent abroad for secondary and most importantly, tertiary education, the same has been done for my subject. In yesteryear, such a privilege would have been reserved for the male child, but times have since changed and adolescent daughters are now rightly given this same consideration.

 

REWA

OJI | Searching for the KOLANUT, 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

36h x 48w in

 

OJI, the kolanut holds an important position in the Igbo cultural life. Considering its size, the small kolanut performs political, social, economic, and religious functions in Igbo society. These basic functions are made manifest during the presentation, blessing, breaking, distribution and celebration of the kola nut as a whole. Its importance and symbolism cannot be overemphasized.

REWA

NWA ABGO | Adolescence, 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

48h x 35.75w in

 

Rites of passage in Igboland are generally centred on periods of transition from one state to another, namely birth, puberty, marriage and death. NWA AGBO – the coming of age where young women who occupy the 18 – 24 age subsets are primed for the rites traditional marriage.

NWA AGBO marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, from a relatively unproductive life to productive one and from dependency to independency. Due to its importance and impact on community development, it is an occasion of considerable ritual. It is primarily to welcome or introduce the new adult into the adult world with its rights, privileges and duties. A young maiden is then recognized as an adult and fit for marriage only after a successful puberty rite.

REWA

EKE | Rebirth of the PYTHON, 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

47.75h x 36w in

 

Pythons are very sacred creatures in Igboland; these serpents must neither be killed, whether erroneously or deliberately, nor eaten. Pythons must be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. They are considered to be messengers of Ala, the Earth Goddess, and generally symbolize peace and prosperity. In likening my subject to EKE, she is instated as this sacred being despite her youth, thus challenging the common notion that young women are of lesser importance that their male peers or and Agadi.

 

REWA

EZE NWANYI | "Queen of Women", 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

48h x 35.75w in

 

“Chief-priest” is a leadership title associated with the traditional religion which connotes a spiritual leader. This is an institution in Igboland that is typically reserved only for the male members of a priestly family. In uncommon cases where female divinities are women, the Eze Nwanyi (the Queen of Women, the High Priestess) who represents the respective goddess of a particular people, oversees the affairs of women in the town.

REWA

Somadina at 24, 2019

acrylic and ink on canvas

24h x 16w in

 

Somadina has now reached the end of the seasonal NWA ABGO age subset, which typically comprises young women aged between 18-24. She is a confident young adult and is ready to adorn her new position of “Eze Nwanyi”, Queen of Women.

REWA

IJU ASE | Making Inquiries, 2018

acrylic and ink on canvas

17.75h x 24w in

 

The groom informs his family that he has identified a potential wife. The groom’s family make inquiries about her lineage, character, health and clan relationship.

REWA

NWUNYE II, 2019

acrylic and ink on 340gsm cartridge paper

25.5h x 18.5w in

 

The genderisation of division of labour across many societies, including that of the Igbos has given men edge over women in the socio-political structure of said societies. This is reinforced by the image of womanhood which undergoes series of changes from Nwata (childhood) to Nwa Agbo (maidenhood) to Nwunye (wifehood) and Nne (motherhood).

This image of womanhood influences and determines the responsibilities that are ascribed to females in traditional Igbo society. As such, right from birth, girls are perceived in the light of their roles as prospective wives and mothers, and hence from infancy, the socialization of girls is tailored towards equipping them with qualities that will enable them to fulfil their expected future roles as wives and mothers.

REWA

ADA NWANYI, 2018

acrylic and ink on 330gsm cartridge paper

25.5h x 18.5w in

 

“First Daughter”. The Ada Nwanyi is the first daughter of an Igbo family. Even after marriage, the Ada is never completely detached from her father’s house and subsequently belongs to the Umuada, a community of married first daughters.

REWA

NWUNYE, 2018

acrylic and ink on 330gsm cartridge paper

25.5h x 18.5w in

 

“Wife”. The genderisation of division of labour across many societies, including that of the Igbos, has given men edge over women in the socio-political structure of said societies. This is reinforced by the image of womanhood which undergoes series of changes from Nwata (childhood) to Nwa Agbo (maidenhood) to Nwunye (wifehood) and Nne (motherhood).

This image of womanhood influences and determines the responsibilities that are ascribed to females in traditional Igbo society. As such, right from birth, girls are perceived in the light of their roles as prospective wives and mothers, and hence from infancy, the socialization of girls is tailored towards equipping them with qualities that will enable them to fulfil their expected future roles as wives and mothers.

REWA

NWANNE, 2018

acrylic and ink on canvas sheet

25.5h x 18.5w in

 

“Sister”. In the village setting, children grow up with a wide range of classificatory mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. Throughout the course of a person’s life, individuals benefit from the support of their kin. In this way, a sister is of paramount important in nurturing and cultivating her lineage mates.

REWA

IFUNANYA, 2018

acrylic and ink on sheet canvas

25.5h x 18.5w in

“Love”.

Ifunanya literally translates to, “to see through the eyes”. The full version of the name is Afurum Gi N’anya, “I have seen you through my eyes”.

“Love” does not technically exist in the Igbo lexicon. This term is deemed a sentimental or emotional feeling which sooner or later ebbs away with time.

For the Igbo, love is much deeper, more important than the emotional feigns. Love is not motivated by physical beauty only, it is the sum total of the physical, genealogical, economical, social and moral attraction between the betrothed, the extended families and wider community.

In the days of our ancestors, one thinks of courtship and marriage with the "eyes" only and whatever one "sees" after many filial investigations can make or break a potential marital courtship. A marriage can only take place once the “eyes” of both families and kinsmen have done enough roving and emerge satisfied. Hence the proverb, “"anya na ebu onu uzo eli", “what you see with your surface eye is not always all you can eat”.

This is what the Igbos of the past and today generally understand by "Ifuna-anya".

REWA

KASIEMOBI, 2018

acrylic and ink on canvas sheet

25.5h x 18.5w in

 

“God Comfort Me”. She seeks solace in a gender-confined world which is often difficult to navigate. In such times, she turns to her Chi, her personal god, for comfort.

Press Release

R E W A

 

PRESS RELEASE 


17 April 2019 (New Orleans, LA) JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY is pleased to announce Nwa Agbo: Entering Adolescence, the first solo exhibition by REWA, a Nigerian artist and 2018 NO DEAD ARTISTS International Juried Exhibition finalist.  REWA labels her art as Igbo Vernacular Art, which she considers to exist outside of formal academic or Western dialogue. Nwa Agbo is deeply anchored to and intricately bound to the Igbo culture and people of Nigeria. The exhibition will be on view from 17 April to 23 May 2019 and an opening reception will be held on Saturday 4 May from 6 to 11 pm in conjunction with Arts District New Orleans' (ADNO) annual Jammin' on Julia arts and culture festival.


The artist expands on the inspiration for her art...


In keeping with my self-labeling of Igbo Vernacular Art, the women that comprise Nwa Agbo: Entering Adolescence are anchored to a particular land, and are situated in a location and a history: the Onitsha people of Igboland.  


In Igboland, there is a seasonality of women’s power and authority, specific phases during a woman’s lifespan can be identified in which female power is either immaterial or elevated. Thus, an Igbo woman’s life can be said to be divided into the following four seasons: the Nwata (childhood) season, the Nwa Agbo (adolescence) season, the Okenye (adult) season and finally, the Agadi (autumnal) season. Traditionally, it is only when a woman enters the Agadi season that she becomes an elder or is given the revered title of “honorary man” and she receives all the rights and reputations that are accorded to that station.  


In focusing on the Nwa Agbo: Entering Adolescence season, the vivid and commanding representations of these young women, on both the allusive and interpretative planes, merit equal attention, since both aim to overturn the misogynistic placement of woman in the patriarchal Igbo culture. The women of Nwa Agbo: Entering Adolescence do not need the title of “honorary man” to be seen or heard. They are formidable in their various manifestations of EKE, the sacred python of Igboland, as EZE NWANYI, queen of all women, as JI, the yam tuber, the celebrated king of all crops in Igboland.  


There is an Igbo maxim which states, “Mma nwanyi bu akwa; mma nwoke bu ego”. This translates to “the beauty of a woman is in her attire; the beauty of a man is in his money.” It is time we expand our thinking to cultivate the roles of women in society beyond the commonly defined and restrictive parameters of physical and superficial attributes. It is time we accepted that in putting the restrictions of seasonality and gender bias aside, one and all are JI.

 

 

 

 

REWA was born and raised between Nigeria and England and received a BSc in Physiology and Pharmacology from University College London (UCL). She previously worked 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 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, she participated in the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery’s No Dead Artists 22nd Annual show in New Orleans, USA. 


For more information, press or sales inquiries please contact the gallery at (504)522-5471. Please join the conversation with JFG on Facebook (@JonathanFerraraGallery), Twitter (@JFerraraGallery), and Instagram (@JonathanFerraraGallery) via the hashtags:  #REWA, #JonathanFerraraGallery and  #ArtsDistrictNewOrleans.