Ayobola Kekere-Ekun’s new body of work “She and I” represents, above all else, a reconstruction of missing childhood memories.
Upon the stark realisation that a large volume of the artist’s childhood memories were untrue, or even simply missing, the artist embarked on a journey to reimagine the forgotten. Leaving false memories behind, and relying heavily on family interviews and photographs, the works presented in Kekere-Ekun’s Platform show are the product of years of therapy undertaken in order to heal a childhood trauma.
This exhibition is an invitation to think beyond the familiar and perhaps question the truth of what we deem as factual.
Kekere-Ekun’s intricate way of working, involving strips of paper, fabric and canvas, lends itself as a reference to the conceptual intricacy of the work. In using familiar materials such as paper, which we have existing associations to, and repurposing its use and meaning, the artist is inviting us to not simply reconsider what we know of the materiality of paper, but rather to question “what we think we know and how we think we know it”.
“When I was a teenager, an image popped up in my mind. It was a recollection of my mother and me swimming when I was six years old.
It was a calm afternoon, and my mother had just called to me to get out of the pool. It was about to rain. When I first remembered it, the image was so clear to me. I could smell the chlorine in the pool and hear the clatter of the beads in my hair as I turned my head. Moments later, I realised the memory was not real. I cannot swim and had never been in a pool.
My mother developed a fear of water as a child after witnessing her friend drown. Neither my brother nor I were ever allowed near large bodies of water. And that was when I first recognised that I could not remember the bulk of my childhood. Over a decade later, I am ready to accept that I cannot access my memories due to unresolved traumas. This has inspired my attempt(s) to unravel the connections between the self and identity and how they interface with individual and collective memory.”
Hide but never seek I
Hide but never seek II
Are you with me? To the death
She and I. The Protectors
She and I. The Counterweights
The artist works predominantly with a technique known as quilling, in which strips of paper are individually shaped to create forms.
Kekere-Ekun tends to quill with a variety of materials that respond well to the technique; including ribbon and strips of canvas. She constantly experiments with new ways of exploring materials and their capabilities. She views the intricacy of her work as a visual metaphor for the complexity of the subject matter she engages with.
“I also attempt to maintain a grip on reality by inserting clocks into ‘memories’ I find unlikely or inexplicably unsettling. In contrast, I rummage through the past by inserting and sometimes reimagining objects that either carry some form of meaning to me or would be readily recognisable to my peers.
In creating the paintings that make up this body of work, I toy with the most wholesome of ideas/experiences, childhood. Seemingly random and benign scenes of existence are shadowed by objects that become breadcrumbs of my attempts to understand my trauma and who or what I am beyond it. In grappling with the personal, I also examine the collective.”
About the Artist
Ayobola Kekere-Ekun is a contemporary visual artist who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1993.
Her BA and MA in Visual Arts were received from the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, where she majored in Graphic Design. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Art and Design at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Kekere-Ekun is also a Lecturer at the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos.
Kekere-Ekun’s work often explores subjects connected to gender, mythology, power and the human condition in a multi-layered way; creating work through a labour-intensive process. Her work is heavily informed by personal experiences and observations. She is particularly interested in exploring the subtle interplay of time, space, gender, power and social structures in contemporary society.
Stand to End Rape Initiative
Stand to End Rape is a youth-led social enterprise advocating against sexual violence, providing prevention mechanisms and supporting survivors with psychosocial services. The organisation’s mission is to catalyse innovative programmes, policies and public engagement efforts and create transformative policy-wide behavioural and systemic changes in the lives of women and girls in Nigeria.