In exactly two years, the Rele Art Gallery has been able to carve out its own path in Nigeria’s art industry. Relentless in its pursuit to live up to its tagline as an art destination, the gallery has continued to reimagine new ways to engage and collaborate with artists, the art community, and industries beyond the creative borders.

Rele’s ”Young Contemporaries” initiative is one of the ways the gallery lives up to its mission. The initiative was launched in January 2016 with the aim to discover artists under the age of 30 who possess a unique voice, message, and are creating conversational work that addresses urgent, and topical issues.

For their sophomore edition, Rele has selected 5 visual artists working in diverse forms of expression. Rele boldly predicts that Marcelina Akpojotor, Rewa, Sejiro Avoseh, Ezekiel Odifeso, and Oladimeji Coker will be ones to watch out for. The curated exhibition of their work is currently showing at Rele until February 12th, and in an interview with the newly minted class of Young Contemporaries, we delved into their art, their process, and what we can expect from them.

Marcelina Akpojotor

Marcelina Akpojotor by Ginikachi Eloka

Marcelina’s series, Cradle, references the earliest period of life; the nurturing and grooming, which she feels is the most important period of our journey. Inspired by motherhood, both the series and installation; Roots and Wings, draw on the language of childhood, with pieces titled “mama” and “dada”, as well as pieces representing the child’s object of play to symbolize energy, movement, and completeness.

While I was researching, I stumbled on this quote by Hodding Carter ‘There are two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.’

Your work is said to represent the ‘Joys of Motherhood,’ is that in the sense of a memory (growing up) or a future expectation (looking forward to a time when you’ll become one)?

It’s from my current experience, trying to go back to when I was little, as a way to draw references from that time. There’s a saying, ‘You cannot really appreciate your parents until you have children of your own.” I have found that I’ve been really appreciative of their love and support when I was very little. The series is also inspired by my baby. For this, I used pieces of Ankara sourced from different tailors, for variety.

Image by Ginikachi Eloka

But Why Ankara specifically, and not Aso-Oke or something else?

I like the intricacy of the Ankara fabric; the designs, and how they are never plain. They have three shades, there’s the light, the dark, and the middle tone. So I love that aspect, and the colors are vibrant. And you know some of us also use it as Aso-Ebi to mark various celebratory occasions, so by taking those fabrics, I feel like I’m also tapping into the energy of these celebrations to also celebrate my child.

What does being selected as one of Rele’s Young Contemporaries mean to you?

(Laughs) I feel honored to be selected, and I think Rele is doing a good job. It’s a young gallery by a young person for young artists, and she’s also grooming a younger generation of artists, lovers, and collectors, which is quite commendable.