VICTOR EKPUK’s “Hip Sistas in Flux : The Visual-Lingual Braid” reviewed by ArtCentron

27 May

ART

May 25, 2015 

Hairstyles, Tattoos and Body Markings Signifier Women’s Pride

posted by ARTCENTRON

Hairstyles, Tattoos and Body Markings Signifier Women’s Pride

Victor Ekpuk, Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sista) Series #.11, 2015 . acrylic on canvas 60′ x 48′. Image courtesy of Morton Fine Art

REVIEW

Victor Ekpuk’s new drawings and paintings investigate hairstyles and body markings as forms of self-expression and pride among women

BY KAZAD

Victor Ekpuk, Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sista) #10, 2014, one of the paintings investigating the importance of hairstyles and body markings of women in Diaspora

WASHINGTON DC.- Several years ago, Victor Ekpuk began exploring the art of hairstyles and body markings among young women of southeastern Nigeria. His objective was not just aesthetics but also the need to reveal the importance of hairstyles and body markings as forms of self-expression and pride among African women. The result of that exploration is a collection of paintings Ekpuk titled Mbobo or Maiden Series.

The paintings and drawings that emerged from Ekpuk’s investigation of the art of hairstyles and body markings among young women of southeastern Nigeria are very instructive. They illuminate how effective hairstyles and body markings are efficient means of accentuating pride and self-actualization among African women. The Mbobo(maiden) Series go from series 1 to 10. The oil on canvas paintings emphasis the importance of hair to black/African women and why it is often described as the crown of her glory.

While many of the paintings and drawings from the Mbobo (maiden) Series address the importance of women’s hairstyles among African women, they also bring to focus the creativity of the hairstylists who create the amazing hair designs. Many of the hairstylists and designers learned their crafts through apprenticeship, from relatives, and friends. Although many of the hairstyles continue to conform to traditions, others have evolved to accommodate modern ideas.

Historically, hairstyles and body markings have been integral to African societies. Hairstyles, body markings, and tattoos are not just a source of pride and self-expression but also signifier of status and aesthetics. In some Nigerian societies, hairstyles and body markings indicate the position and status of women. Among the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, for instance, hairstyles, body markings, and tattoos are effective means of establishing the authorities of woman.

Since that first exploration about 2008, Ekpuk has continued to explore the theme of hairstyle designs in his works, expanding his oeuvres to include body markings, tattoos and body scarifications. Presently at the Morton Fine Art in Washington DC is an exhibition that illustrates Ekpuk’s expansion of the art of hairstyle design from the Nigerian context to the Diaspora.

Titled Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sistas) in Flux: The Visual-Lingual Braid, the exhibition uses the exploration of hairstyles and body markings in southeastern Nigeria as the pedestal for investigating the culture of hairstyles and body markings in the Diaspora. Asian Uboikpa, an Ibibio expression, references proud young women and virgins, while Hip Sista is an African American term used to describe highly fashionable women.

In his recent paintings examining hairstyles and body markings, Ekpuk continues to expand his use of Nsibidi, the West African ideographic, to create a visual language that has situated him at the center of contemporary African art discourse in the West. Unlike in the past when his use of and interpretation of Nsibidi was limited to Nigeria and Africa, in his recent paintings, the West African ideographic system bridges the contemporary mode and cultural heritage.

The motifs inherent in Ekpuk’s recent paintings emulate designs of African fabrics design, jewelry, piecing, tattoos and scarification in such a way that dispenses with a singular cultural identity. There is a hybridization of forms and ideas from multiple sources and cultures. For a Nigerian artist who has travelled the globe presenting his works in museums and galleries, the confluence of ideas is not unusual.

The focus of many of the paintings and drawings on exhibition in Asian Uboikpa (Hip Sistas) in Flux: The Visual-Lingual Braid is content over form. There is a deliberate attempt to elevate substance over form in many of the paintings that are characterized by backgrounds with heavy motifs.

Please contact Morton Fine Art for available artworks by VICTOR EKPUK. 

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009, (202) 628-2787, http://www.mortonfineart.com , mortonfineart@gmail.com

To read this article in full please visit the following link: http://artcentron.com/2015/05/25/hairstyles-signifier-pride/#prettyPhoto

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