Ava DuVernay Presents a New Show Celebrating Black Figures in History

October 26, 2020

Although she did not pick up a camera until the age of thirty two, Ava DuVernay has made history as a writer, director, and producer. Celebrated as an independent filmmaker, she won the directing award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film Middle of Nowhere, becoming the first black woman to win the award.

DuVernay is now presenting an exhibition at Signature African Art in London that resonates with the Black Lives Matter movement while coinciding with Black History Month. Titled Say My Name, it brings together works by 13 African artists whose works celebrate influential figures and moments in Black history in the UK and the USA.

Ava DuVernay, who is also a Founder of ARRAY, explained art is one of the most powerful tools that we can employ to activate and ignite change.

I am happy to partner with Khalil and Signature African Art to showcase the galvanizing work of thirteen dynamic Black artists as they tackle issues of justice and dignity through their art practice. 

Left: Oluwole Omofemi - Self Love, 2019 / Right: Moufouli Bello - Shekere, 2019

Honoring Lost Lives

The exhibition will present works by Adjaratou Ouedraogo, Ejiro Owigho, Anthony Nsofor, Giggs Kgole, Ayanfe Olarinde Moufouli Bello, Dandelion Eghosa, Oluwole Omofemi, Demola Ogunajo, Samson Akinnire, Dennis Osakue and Taiye Erewele. Working in portrait painting and sculpture, these artists explore the histories of the Diaspora in Europe and America.

Some of the artists, like Oluwole Omofemi and Moufouli Bello, honored the Black lives which have been lost at the hands of the police. A Nigerian artist, Omofemi presents a series of 9 paintings which feature 9 sentences that George Floyd said during the approximate 9 minutes that his neck was pressed on, including "I can’t breathe".

On the other hand, Bello, the Benin-based artist, created a poignant portrait of Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker who was shot and killed by Louisville police officers in March, 2020. The share of proceeds from the sales of these works will be donated to the families of Floyd and Taylor.

Left: Afanye Olarinde - Stuck in Limbo, 2020 / Right: Djakou Nathalie - The Book, 2020

Examining Black History

Other artists in the show honor significant people and moment in the history of the Black movement. Dennis Osakue, known for his large-scale paintings that bear a photographic quality, paid tribute to Angela Davis with a poignant portrait, while Taiye Erewele depicted Wangari Maathai, Kenyan activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize.

South-African artist Giggs Kgole comments on the loss of identity of African people during enslavement in a 3D painting; Dandelion Eghosa examines Bruce’s Beach, a resort seized from African Americans in the1920s. An artist from Burkina Faso; while Adjaratou Ouedraogo explores the treatment of the descendants of the Windrush Generation in the 2018 Windrush scandal. There is also a number of works that depict protests and police brutality alongside iconic symbols of Black empowerment.

Left: Adjaratou Ouedraogo - Mon Pangolin, 2020 / Right: Ejiro Owigho - Untitled, 2019

Say My Name at Signature African Art

Curated by Khalil Akar, the exhibition Say My Name will be on view at Signature African Art in London from October 27 until November 28, 2020. From there the exhibition will travel to Los Angeles in February 2021 and further details of the participating artists and works will be announced later this year.

Signature African Art will donate 40% of the proceeds of the exhibition to Ava DuVernay’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), a propulsive fund focused on telling stories of police abuse and violence through various narrative art forms.

Featured image: Demola Ogunajo - Twin Angels, 2012; Giggs Kgole - Where Did It All Go Wrong, 2019; Anthony Nsofor - Bed Sheet (Songs of a DbAA), 2020. All images courtesy of Signature African Art.