Signature African Art presents Say My Name, two exhibitions of works curated by Khalil Akar and presented by acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay in London from 27 October 2020 and in Los Angeles in February 2021. Say My Name resonates with the Black Lives Matter movement through new works which celebrate influential figures and moments in Black history in the UK and the USA. The exhibitions coincide with Black History Month in both countries.
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.