To mark the opening of Stacey Gillian Abe’s debut solo exhibition in London, Shrub-let of Old Ayivu, we invite you to delve deeper into her practice by taking a closer look at one the highlight works, The Farmer’s Daughter.
Abe’s work reflects her past and her memories, highlighting her personal experiences and her relationships to her community. The autobiographical dimension of her work confronts traditional depictions of the Black body, drawing attention to more cerebral aspects and challenging the colonial lens. A crucial element of her portraiture is the colour indigo. The deep blue hues allow Abe to delve deeper into the complexities of colourism in the Black community, reshaping pre-constructed narratives.
The Farmer’s Daughter
The Farmer’s Daughter (2022) is from Abe’s latest solo exhibition, Shrub-let of Old Ayivu. The painting is reminiscent of the artist’s adolescence while simultaneously reimagining an image of Abe’s mother as a teenager. Through the process of creating the work, Abe envisions what life would have been like for her mother, who had her as a teenager. The artist visualises her mother’s struggle as she fought to be an adult while still a child, thinking about school while trying to look for a job.
The title of the work is inspired by humble beginnings. In Uganda, rural areas are populated by subsistence farmers living in humble homes. Any child raised in these modest backgrounds is taught to empathise with and accept their own position, while always remembering where they have come from and where they will lay their head at the end of the day. Through this process of remembering where you are, you are reminded of where you strive to be: “anywhere but here”, Abe states. The artist describes her own relationship to this process of remembering, understanding it as something born from anxiety inducing fear: “I lived in fear of the future, maybe because I am a farmer’s daughter with nothing to rely on but my own will power to break out of certain conditions and flourish on my own terms. I watched my mother live through that fear, but the point at which she stopped fearing and started flourishing is a blur to me. I don’t remember when she dropped the hoe and chose to dream instead. I am still searching for those points in my memory.”
The subject of Abe’s painting feels distinctly rebellious. The figure casts off any pressure to remain modest and composed, refusing to assimilate with her role or to remember that she is the farmer’s daughter. The shrubs that grow around her and through the silk fabric underneath her are symbolic of time spent, of the time she has taken to reach the state of total relaxation we see here. In the painting, the farmer’s daughter decides to forget, relying instead on her dreams and fantasies beyond the real world. She opens herself up to vulnerabilities, accepting her imperfections and choosing to lie with them until she is able to get up on her own terms.
Stacey Gillian Abe
The Farmer’s Daughter
200 x 150 cm