LEFT. LEONARDO DA VINCI, MONA LISA, 1503, Oil on plywood, 77x53 cm, Collection: Louvre, Paris, France
RIGHT. BOLUWATIFE OYEDIRAN, KEMI, 2021. Oil on canvas. 100x89 cm
Boluwatife Oyediran borrows the codes of ethnocentric occidental art to preach in favour of a better representation of black people while questioning the concept of power and societal norms. He replaces the major figures of art history with those who have been historically discarded or made invisible from the spheres of power. Thus, his work Kemi (2021) portrays a young black woman in similar décor and poise to Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece: Mona Lisa (1503).
The hills that characterise the landscape in Mona Lisa are now replaced by a cotton field in Boluwatife Oyediran’s work - a common theme in Oyediran’s practice, the cotton field recalls a collective unconscious history. While the central, solitary figure seems lost in the immensity and infinity of their environment, the work reveals the weight of history on the construction of one’s identity. The cotton field is a direct reference to the Transatlantic Slave Trade that aided in the prosperity and lushness of the colonial Empire, as well as the industrial revolution. His characters, in flamboyant clothing, who are immersed into these cotton fields silently evoke and challenge the audience to delve further into the history behind cotton-growing.
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