Efie Gallery, Dubai’s contemporary art gallery specialising in artists of African origin, presents a new body of work by Nigerian American artist Victor Ekpuk. The latest exhibition continues the artist’s exploration of Nsibidi, an ancient graphic communication system from south-eastern Nigeria. The exhibition of painting and sculpture, titled INTERwoven TEXTures, will take place from 28 September until 21 November 2023 and forms part of the inaugural Dubai Calligraphy Biennale which is scheduled to take place from 1 – 31 October 2023.
Born in Uyo, Nigeria, Ekpuk now lives and works in Washington D.C. Ekpuk’s works have been displayed in prestigious national and international exhibitions, including Dakar Biennial, Senegal; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; and Somerset House, London. In recent years, Ekpuk has added large-scale murals, installations, and public art projects to his portfolio. He has been commissioned by The Phillips Collection, Washington DC, North Carolina Museum of Art, Memphis Brooks Museum, Washington D.C. city government for Boone Elementary School, and Bank ABC (Arab Bank Corporation).
Ekpuk is celebrated for his bold and expressive paintings, drawings and sculptures that offer sociopolitical commentary while encompassing themes such as cultural memory, humanity, spirituality and identity of the African diaspora. Marking Ekpuk’s first solo show in the Middle East, the exhibition explores the diverse cultural intersections across the region and displays works developed during the artist’s residency at New York University Abu Dhabi in September, hosted in collaboration with Efie Gallery.
A series of wood works sits alongside four new metal sculptures and two previously unseen works on canvas. The pieces are painted with Ekpuk’s own unique language of abstraction, made up of intricate scripture, symbols and mark-making inspired by the pictograms of Nsibidi, a secret system used by the mysterious Ekpe society and thought to date back as far as the 5th century.
“I want people to feel the works, instead of trying to read my marks literally,” said Victor Ekpuk about his works. “Whether I mine writing systems or just explore the juxtapositions between the old and the new, these are all excavations that serve my work, through which I am marrying classical African forms with the contemporary. Through this exchange of interwoven textures and cultural references, my artworks become a cultural narrative composed of visual symbols, histories and stories that transcend time and place. If I can, I want my works to be starting points for dialogue, new discoveries into the differences and commonalities among cultures.” Coinciding with his exhibition at Efie Gallery, Ekpuk unveils a specially commissioned public installation in the Dubai Design District (d3) for the Dubai Calligraphy Biennale, becoming the first African artist to display a public sculpture in Dubai. Celebrating Arabic calligraphy and its global counterparts, the Biennale will showcase the works of over 200 local and international esteemed artists and calligraphers.