In The Citizens Of Nowhere, Nsofor challenges migrants’ feelings
Stretching across several canvases, a symphony of faces, expressive symbols and patterns combine to create a captivating series of abstract compositions, and within each stroke lies a multitude of identities reflecting diverse and collective experiences witnessed by talented visual artist, Anthony Nsofor on his numerous journeys.
Nigerian-born Nsofor is a contemporary artist and painter and currently in his first year of a three-year prestigious art residency at Torpedo Factory Art Centre in Virginia, United States of America. Showcasing 25 works from his ‘Citizens of Nowhere’ series, which is also the tittle of his solo exhibition currently showing at O’da Art Gallery in Victoria Island, Lagos; the exhibition kicked off on September 28 and will run to the 21st of this month.
His paintings are a continuation of his studies into the series, “The Citizens of Nowhere”, that explore themes of migration, identity and the experiences of living as a foreigner in a foreign land. For his solo exhibition at O’DA, Nsofor intends to take viewers on a journey that transcends his personal experiences, delving into the universal realities people face as migrants and the emotional encounters of those he met along the way.
He said there are a multitude of occurrences one must face in another man’s land and “The Citizens of Nowhere” is his visceral exploration of these shared experiences. On inspiration for this body of work, he said, “At some point I realized that traveling meant that I became another kind of person and I started questioning the things that make one Nigerian. With the Internet, we can have a personality that spreads across borders. The physical borders, boundaries and geographical locations no longer restrain us like they did 20 years ago. Sometimes identity can be misconstrued. I’m African, but at the same time I’m American in so many ways.”
Nsofor employs acrylic, oils mixed media (oils, paper, cottons and paperwork) for his collection and says his work is about lines and forms that are somewhat calligraphic in nature. Nsofor who said getting into his present residency was a long-awaited dream come true, added that it is helping him grow in unexpected ways. “I felt like a big fish in a small pond in Nigeria, I wanted more recognition for my work.
On her part, curator, O’da Art Gallery, Sunshine Alaibe, said that the title is reflective of what his paintings are, which have been in the works since 2017. “No matter how long ago we leave Nigeria, we all have a part of Nigeria with us. Tony might not be here but he is telling his experience of being away whilst also feeling he wants to be here and it’s important to tell these stories consistently. He has a couple of traditional influences and you can see the way he draws faces in all his works, deliberately or non-deliberately, showing people packed tightly together but yet, still alienated.”
Nsofor studied Fine and applied Arts at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, majoring in painting. As an artist with a 20-year studio practice, Nsofor has dedicated his work to documenting experiences as a black African artist, journeying through various countries that are strongly biographical.
Over the years, he has taken his practice from Lagos to Abidjan and the USA. With these lengthy experiences, his work deals with themes of governance, migration, sexuality and the Nigerian condition, all which are communicated through the visual language of text, signs and symbols adopted from the Uli, Nsibidi and Adinkra traditions.
With an intention to rewrite African ideologies through a global lens, Nsofor fuses rich colours and patterns to invoke new meanings and delineate cultural ideas for viewers.