“Art is a disruptive and propulsive force. Creative expression 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,” – Ava DuVernay, Founder of ARRAY.
Featuring portrait paintings and sculpture, Say My Name aims to connect African artists with the histories of the Diaspora in Europe and America. The exhibition in London features 13 African artists and honours the names of Black lives which have been lost at the hands of the police, including George Floyd.
His last words are portrayed by Nigerian artist Oluwole Omofemi, who presented a solo exhibition at the gallery in March 2020. The work is a series of 9 paintings which observes the approximate 9
minutes that George Floyd’s neck was pressed on. It features 9 sentences that he said during this moment including ‘I can’t breathe’. Benin-based Moufouli Bello whose work is rooted in identity and ideology also presents a portrait of Breonna Taylor in Say My Name. Signature African Art will donate its share of proceeds from the sales of these works to the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Say My Name pays tribute to Black activists who have fought for equality such as Angela Davis, whose portrait is rendered by Dennis Osakue, known for his large-scale paintings that bear a photographic quality. Wangari Maathai, Kenyan activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize, is depicted by contemporary artist Taiye Erewele.
Works in the London show also reflect on historical moments in Black history, ranging from the Transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans to the Windrush scandal. Johannesburg-based Giggs Kgole comments on the loss of identity of African people during enslavement in a 3D painting. Visual storyteller Dandelion Eghosa examines Bruce’s Beach, a resort seized from African Americans in the 1920s, by drawing parallels with a river in her hometown of Edo State in Nigeria.
Self-taught, Ouagadougou-based artist Adjaratou Ouedraogo explores the treatment of the descendants of the Windrush Generation in the 2018 Windrush scandal. Further works in the London exhibition include depictions of protests and police brutality alongside iconic symbols such as the Black Power fist.
Say My Name, presented by Ava DuVernay, at Signature African Art, London features works by:
Adjaratou Ouedraogo, Anthony Nsofor, Ayanfe Olarinde, Dandelion Eghosa, Demola Ogunajo, Dennis Osakue, Djakou Kassi Nathalie, Ejiro Owigho, Giggs Kgole, Moufouli Bello, Oluwole Omofemi, Samson Akinnire and Taiye Erewele.
Signature African Art will donate 40% of the proceeds of Say My Name to Ava DuVernay’s Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP). Dedicated to empowering activists to pursue narrative change, LEAP is a propulsive fund focused on telling stories of police abuse and violence through various narrative art forms. Administered by DuVernay’s non-profit ARRAY Alliance, the LEAP initiative commissions projects across multiple disciplines including film, literature, poetry, theatre, dance, fine art and music.
“We are delighted to be collaborating with Ava DuVernay on Say My Name. Signature African Art has been committed to providing a platform for African artists since its foundation in 1992. All of the artists involved hope their works will raise awareness and help to continue the conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement. It is important that we remember these stories and that we say the names of all whom we have lost.” – Khalil Akar, Gallery Director and Curator, Signature African Art.
Say My Name is on view in London at Signature African Art from 27 October – 24 December 2020. Say My Name in Los Angeles will open in February 2021 and further details of the participating artists and works will be announced later this year.