Wole Lagunju is a 1986 graduate of Fine arts and graphic design at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. Lagunju’s hybrid paintings of traditional Gelede masks which are juxtaposed with images of the modern woman in the Western world redefine the forms and philosophies of Yoruba visual art and design. He reimagines and transforms cultural icons appropriated from the Dutch Golden, Elizabethan as well as the fifties and sixties, Euro-American eras. Lagunju’s cultural references, mined from the eras of colonization and decolonization of the African continent critique the racial and social structures of the 19th century whilst evoking commentaries on power, femininity and womanhood. Wole Lagunju has exhibited widely in Nigeria, United States, Trinidad and Germany. Recent exhibitions include: Yoruba Remixed, Ebonycurated Gallery, Capetown (Solo Exhibition) 2018, Wole Lagunju: African Diaspora Artist and Transnational Visuality, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia (Solo Exhibition) 2014, Womanscape: Race, Gender and Sexuality in African Art, University of Texas, Austin Texas, 2011. Wole was awarded a Phillip Ravenhill Fellowship by the UCLA in 2006 and a Pollock Krasner award in 2009. He lives in the United States.
ABOUT THE SERIES
“My recent works are about the hybridization of cultures and reinterpretation of pre and post colonial aesthetics. In my paintings, I transpose Gelede masks from the Yoruba people of West Africa onto classical images that document bygone and prescient social hierarchies of the Western world. In choosing representations of power in Western culture or the modern world, I am interested in images from The Dutch Golden age, and in the Victorian, Elizabethan and Tudorian England eras. I also take cursory note of sex symbols and movie stars of the past and present and engage with vintage fashion and glamour of the fifties through the sixties. Whilst the images from 19th century Europe are representative of the age of colonization of some parts of the world, those of the fifties and sixties signify the era of decolonization and the independence of several African countries. More so, the fifties and sixties were the age of the counterculture, the birth of the African American civil rights movement and the rise of feminism.In making composite images of women and Gelede from these two eras, my purpose is to challenge and critique notions of imperialistic cultural idioms. Values and stereotypes that generate assumptions of a dominant cultural prerogative and singular historical perspective within issues of power and gender and identity. I have chosen to draw inferences from Yoruba culture, a culture that affirms itself as being the origin of all the other cultures of the world. I draw parallels between the icons of this culture and the icons in the Western society. Furthermore, it is imperative to query how the social structures of traditional societies are impacted on both positively and negatively by globalization and the hither to blurring of the line that separate the sexes.” – Wole Lagunju, 2019