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Adjani Okpu-Egbe

Adjani Okpu-Egbe is a distinctive voice amongst a new generation of African-born artists. His textured oil paintings have a strong social commentary, describing the artist’s political activism and interest in historical Black leaders, including the kings and Queens of Africa.

Adjani’s paintings are not for tourists, they bite into the flesh of indifference and describe many painful realisations, which this artists has experienced since leaving Africa. However throughout his struggles, his genuine love of history shines through in a more playful and poetic language. “Mansa Musa’s Harem” is a series of erotic paintings by Adjani, celebrating the wealthy, 14th c King of Mali who was never tempted by his harem. Adjani’s interest and knowledge of African history, combined with an improvised, inventive use of materials and imagery, give his paintings intellectual depth and appeal.

Adjani’s painting titled “Mary Seacole” is an example of this core narrative, socio political subject matter. The artist took a moment from modern politics, when the charismatic Black Boer War nurse, Mary Seacole, was removed from the UK’s schools curriculum. He has used this opportunity to describe what he sees as a typical oversight by educational planning, to include the histories of black people everywhere.

Adjani was born in Cameroon in 1979. He left home at age 14, then joined the British Army and moved to the UK. As a soldier Adjani began to paint prolifically, changing course to become a full time artist in 2010. He has often painted about the stresses of holding onto his own Cameroonian roots in London. However in Brixton, with its diverse community and a small gathering of fellow Cameroonian’s, he found a community, a studio and a gallery.

Adjani’s ability to communicate his everyday stories, combined with political activism, has resulted in a style one might refer to as ‘Afro Expressionism’. This pictographic art form incorporates the artist’s own symbols and characters, reflecting a tradition of oral history passed down through his African lineage. Often painting onto found materials such as reclaimed furniture, textiles, bubble wrap and old doors, Adjani’s imagination and experimental curiosity allow him to take salvaged materials to heart and use them as convincing metaphors.

His paintings were enthusiastically received at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art exhibition, 'Regarding Africa’ in 2016. They were also a big hit with the media and with collectors at the second 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset in London. The artist has been featured in the Financial Times, Beaux Arts Magazine, CNN, London Live, BBC Radio World Service, and numerous culture journals. ‘The subjects of my paintings are the embodiment of my personal experiences in life, incorporating my childhood and youth to being an artist from Africa living in London.

I believe that my heritage and spiritualism allowed me to pursue my freedom to become an artist, to look to the future and to see the bigger picture. I share a resilience which is found in Black People everywhere, which stems from the slave trade, colonial rule, apartheid and the difficult events which culminated in the civil rights movement.’

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