The OMENKA art gallery is a significant and longstanding institution in the landscape of contemporary art in Nigeria. To talk of contemporary art in Nigeria, is to recognise the key role that this gallery has played in promoting contemporary artists from Nigeria and across the continent since its establishment in 2003. In August 2019, the ArtoP team were privileged not only to be able to visit the gallery in Ikoyi, Lagos but also to be given a personal tour by artist, curator and founder Oliver Enwonwu.
Oliver Enwonwu is himself a practising artist which could explain why he so eloquently described the range of work exhibited at the gallery on our visit. Enwonwu, in fact, comes from a long line of artists; his grandfather, a reputable sculptor, and his father, Ben Enwonwu, famously known as the Nigerian modernist painter with his own political voice in the anti-colonial struggle. Perhaps it is for these reasons, that he is also a strong advocate and ambassador for the arts in Nigeria. His gallery show cases a diverse range of pieces from the sculptural to painting and mixed media, each one as exciting as the other.
Of notable mention, as they present aspects of political articulation in the arts were Kelani Abass' mixed media collages from the Man and Machine series as a commentary on history, reflecting upon immigration and industry and asking questions about identity. Sam Ebohon's very intimate painting Patience and Jonathan, an unusual very human representation of this political figure (Goodluck Jonathan) as he sits alongside his wife. The pastel drawings of Jefferson Jonahan, from his State of Inertia series, that encapsulate feelings of apathy where the 'sleepy state' of Nigeria is embodied in these resting figures. Finally, Luke Osaro's portrait of musician and activist Fela Kuti as he emerges out of the wall arms raised.