Juwon Aderemi - Allegories of Time in Yorubaland: Accra, Gallery II

2 Mar - 14 Apr 2022

Juwon Aderemi’s new body of work is an allegory of passing time. Born at the cusps between two centuries, the artist is placed at the doorstep of post-modernity, wondering what elements of our past should be preserved upon entering the future, right before time is to be circularly flipped like an hourglass. 


In a series of large oil paintings often surrounded by Rothko-looking color fields, he brings to life a number of Yoruba folklore stories to manifest this allegory and investigate the theme. Mostly used to intimidate children and warn them of otherworldly Orishas from Yorubaland, these stories have been passed down orally and whispered for generations in Nigeria. Today these stories stand as symbols of a national identity. They narrate the greed, love, courage and fear and cunning nature of men behaving in society with one another, by questioning the moral laws of human behavior. Positioned by the blurred line which separates history from storytelling or belief, most of these fascinating stories resist providing a clear definition. However, whether these characters dressed in adire clothes truly existed or not is of no interest. What matters is what they can teach us today by being present and immortalized in Juwon Aderemi’s carefully painted eyes, mirroring their souls.


Aderemi paints these characters with realistic accuracy, almost making the adire fabric available to the touch, yet consciously leaving some parts unfinished staying true to the artwork’s nature as replicas of reality. In his hourglass, the adire fabric is again en vogue and no longer in disuse, as is the revival of these old stories, which he paints in a contemporary fashion, similarly to his idea of beauty; almost faceless and thus completely surreal.


Text by Angelica Litta Modignani