‘People Seem to be Trying to Reconnect with Nature’ In Conversation with Nengi Omuku

‘I thought about how we’ve all gone through this traumatic event, the pandemic, and faced endless loss and illness,’ Nengi Omuku says. ‘I realized, via scrolling on social media and watching the news, that people seem to be trying to reconnect with nature and choosing to acknowledge all that it has given us.’

Editor's note: This essay is available in our print issue, A New Chapter for African Artefacts?. Buy the issue here.

Nengi Omuku is an artist well-known for her ethereal paintings of figures who are void of facial features, suspended in empty spaces and often in flux. Her work has been acknowledged for its exploration of identity beyond physical appearance, and its ability to invoke internal, psychological spaces in the physical world. 

Omuku’s recent exhibition, Parables of Joy, is based on her personal experience of ‘journeying into joy’. This journey coincided with the artist’s return to nature whilst in residence at Kobomoje Artist Residency in Ibadan. Omuku departs from the abstracted and interior settings in her earlier bodies of work and re-stages her phantom-like figures for the first time in abstracted, but evidently natural and verdant landscapes or interior settings laden with plants. In Parables of Joy, Omuku also portrays some of the people in her life in whom she found rest and respite during and following the global pandemic. The new series can be seen to synthesize two of Omuku’s great passions, horticulture and painting...

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