Oliver Okolo - I forgot to tell you, now listen

Written by Black Discourse
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Who: Oliver Okolo

What: I forgot to tell you, now listen

Where: Gallery 1957, Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast & Galleria Mall PMB 66 — Ministries Gamel Abdul Nasser Avenue Ridge Accra, Ghana

When: 28 October - 27 November, 2021


Via Gallery 57:

Gallery 1957 is delighted to present a new body of work by Oliver Okolo titled I Forgot to Tell You, Now Listen. Okolo, born in Suleja , Nigeria and now living and working in Abuja, Nigeria uses oil paint and charcoal and employs techniques of collage in his portraits. Okolo has been working alongside fellow artist and writer Oliver Enwonwu as curator of this exhibition.

Oliver Okolo has emerged as one of the most exciting artists working out of Nigeria today and is a central figure in a new vanguard whose portrayal of Black people in confident and assertive gaze, challenges and dismantles negative racial constructs and knowledge systems. The 20 mixed media works presented in I Forgot to Tell You, Now Listen—the title of Okolo’s first solo exhibition at Gallery 1957 in Accra, Ghana— lend voice to this assertion. Individually powerful, they collectively form the thrust of the artist’s “psychological introspection”, underscoring his present exploration of identity, ethnicity, status and the human condition. Significantly, they also build upon his earlier body of work ‘Portraits of the Life Elizabeth Freeman’, featured as part of a recent large-themed group exhibition with 15 other artists at the same gallery, to mark another milestone in its contributions to contemporary art developments on the continent.

I Forgot to Tell You, Now Listen, is strongly personal and of an  intimate nature. In many ways, this series may be construed as revisionist, serving as a vehicle to articulate Okolo’s notion of ethnicity and to include previously unknown but significant aspects of the artist’s life and more importantly, his use of memorialisation as a tool for socio-cultural and political mediation. The artist summarises his aims for the exhibition as: 

‘A need to reveal important details of my existence. I forgot to tell you that my Igbo heritage is interwoven with my contemporary way of life and consequently impacts on my thinking and creative process. Growing up, in Enu Avomini, Anambra,  I questioned some of the cultural and socio-political norms and beliefs of ndi Igbo, accepting only a few. These personal opinions have moulded me into who I am today. I also forgot to share with you my perspective on the role tradition has played in shaping our mentality as Black people today and how culture has defined us as good or bad by improving or diminishing morality and humanity.’

Against this background, the exhibition can be interpreted clearly as Okolo’s search for empirical truth in defining his reality. The title of the exhibition therefore becomes apt. It describes markedly, an increasing reflection upon his early childhood and how these formative years influenced his evolution as an artist.


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