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Adams, Mlambo pay vernacular homage to architecture, design with exhibition


Anne Adams from Nigeria and Lulama Wolf Mlambo from South Africa, recently displayed their new works at the Affinity Art Gallery, Lagos.

Two African artists, Anne Adams from Nigeria and Lulama Wolf Mlambo from South Africa, recently displayed their new works at the Affinity Art Gallery, Lagos. Themed A Vernacular Homage to Architecture and Design, the joint show, was held between July 31 and August 28, 2021.

The exhibition is organised by Affinity art gallery in collaboration with Undiscovered Canvas, an agency based in France.


According to the organisers, the collaboration aims to unify, uphold and celebrate the history, culture, and traditions of Africa. The artists embark on an artistic storytelling journey with mediums such as ceramics, paintings, and video, using their artistic expression and contemporary lens to pass information handed down through generations by African matriarchy.

Speaking on her works, Adams said they are deeply rooted in culture and tradition. She said she wanted to create works that encompass structure and design, taking the viewers back to a time, where art was created out of the necessity of who people were, their lifestyles, culture, and spiritualism.

“My work highlights authentic Nigerian symbolisms, adapted from Nsibidi and Mbari Mbayo art. I also used local tools created by Bwari potters to create textures on the works,” the artist said.


For Mlambo, a principal theme in her work is space, spirituality, and influences from vernacular architecture. The artist explores the human condition in extremely imaginative ways creating hyper-visualised characters.

The gallery curator, Naomi Edobor, speaking on the theme, said it highlights the specificities of regional art and the importance of traditional principles and design in contemporary art.

“Using vernacular techniques and textures, recurrent patterns, hues, and grooves in her ceramics, Anne Adams tells stories. The use of symmetry in her works is an operational and harmonious display of interaction with balance and indigenous design. Her works are intimate, familiar, and descriptive, encompassing materiality and questioning the self, origins, and belonging,” she said.


Edobor stated that vernacular architecture is also a principal theme in Mlambo’s work, exploring the human condition in imaginative and stylized ways.

The curator said: “Mlambo interrogates the precolonial African experience through the contemporary mind by studying the patterns similar to that of women of the South African Ndebele tribe in decorative homes. The patterns expressed continuity and cultural resistance to their circumstances.

“The artist approach to her new body of works “Remaining Vernacular” is reminiscent of the textures, patterns, colour and character of these South African modes of communication.”


The curator said in the present day, the transition towards digital societies, new meanings, agendas, and challenges have been incorporated into worldwide discussions.

“The need for vernacular art in this new framework addresses issues such as loss of cultural identity, deterritorialization, unsustainable development and decreasing resilience which are now part of our lived experiences,” she said.

Founder, Affinity Art Gallery, Olugbemiro Arinoso, said the exhibition is more about design, sustainability, and architecture, noting that the gallery vision is to celebrate African artists who are creating works on the African narrative.


He said: “We are trying to encourage multicultural collaboration and as Africans, we all have the same blood.

“What we are trying to do is that we want people to celebrate African artists, who are using their work to represent African narrative. Also, we want to support emerging artists. There is lack of infrastructure to support these artists. So we are trying to pass across the message that if your work is great, there is an avenue for you to be showcased. We want to introduce them to new collectors and help them control the narrative while showing their work to the public.

“We are also championing women, who are the less represented gender in the art world.”


Founder, Undiscovered Canvas, Nomaza Nongqunga Coupez, who said she is always looking for ways to hold exhibitions of her artists on the continent, noted that the collaboration came about because she wanted her artist’ work to communicate with another female in discussing vernacular architecture.

She believes that creative industries can drive the economy of countries, by creating wealth, innovation, and competitiveness.

“Artists serve as a linkage to enriching knowledge about the past. We as Africans are still much in the dark about our own history. If we are not capable of educating ourselves about our past, then even the present would not make any sense, the future is even darker.

“It is important to find out who we are. Apart from gold, minerals, our heritage and culture is without a doubt one of our biggest commodities. But it is a commodity that is the least invested on. And creative art is central to that.”


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