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Ada Udechukwu, award-winning artist and writer, returns to Nigeria’s art scene after 28  years abroad with ‘Particles in Motion’, featuring 36 new drawings and 10 poems.

Her work is fuelled by her exploration of bi-racial identity, and connecting with otherness, alongside universal themes of love, community, and the need for connection. Many of these works were created during the time of the pandemic and thus tap into the nuance of isolation, longing, and separation, many communities experienced across the globe.

Ada Udechukwu in studio. Courtesy of the artist & SMO Contemporary.

The idea of the exhibition, ‘Particles in Motion’, started in 2017, during a conversation between Ada Udechukwu and exhibition curator Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, who was eager to bring her work back to Nigeria.  Udechukwu’s career had seen many changes, including her moving from Nigeria to the United States in the 1980s, relocating from the East to the West Coast several years later, and adjusting to life during the debilitating corona pandemic. Through her “particles in motion” journey, Udechukwu found consolation and a sense of home in her visual and literary work connecting to the “cause of humanity” wherever she settled.

“For the greater part of my life, I have struggled against internal and external boundaries, journeying in search of a space that continually eluded me. A space where I might be free of the often confusing and contradictory signals that a biracial person faces. It took me time to realize that the place I was looking for lies within…”

Ada Udechukwu, Here somewhere, 2020. Watercolour on paper, 36 x 26cm. Courtesy of SMO Contemporary.Ada Udechukwu, Here somewhere, 2020. Watercolour on paper, 36 x 26cm. Courtesy of SMO Contemporary.

Exploring Udechukwu’s connection to her cultural roots; the highly anticipated exhibition is an ode to the diverse layers of memories, from her youth growing up in the rolling hills of Enugu and Nsukka, through her artistic journey, to finally settling in Los Angeles where she lives today. Her art and poetry convey a sense of pure instinct, spontaneity, and unfiltered raw expression of emotions. The rounded forms and patterned, undulating lines create a universe of emotional connections in which we gently embrace the physical, emotional, and spiritual arrivals and departures of this thing called life. Emotion is central to her examination of memory. “It shapes our relationships with ourselves and others, and its contours hold what we will and will not carry.” “Ada Udechukwu has been associated with the Nsukka School, the epochal artistic efflorescence that emerged at the University of Nigeria during the late twentieth century…where other artists used their drawing as commentary and critique of Nigerian postcolonial condition,” commented Chika Okeke-Agulu, Professor of African and African Diaspora Art at Princeton University. “Udechukwu is more introspective, frequently questioning her relationships with her internal and external worlds. In her hands, thus, art (and poetry) are readily available and effective tools of self-analysis and enunciation.”

Ada Udechukwu, Calling.

Born in 1960, Ada Udechukwu’s early writing reflects the seasons of Nsukka, home of the University of Nigeria, where she won the Prize for Best Poet in 1979-80, before graduating in 1981 with a BA in Language and Literature. She later received an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College, Bennington Vermont. Since the early 1980’s Udechukwu’s creative voice gained momentum through her textile creations, her pen and ink drawings and watercolour paintings, alongside her writing. Two years after completing her MFA, Udechukwu was shortlisted for the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing, for her short story, “Night Bus”.

“As a writer and as a visual artist, my poetry, drawing, and painting support and complement each other. I think of my art as providing varied creative journeys within the flow of its tributaries.”

Ada Udechukwu, Two of us arehere, 2018. Ink on paper, 40.6 x 30.4cm. Courtesy of SMO Contemporary.Ada Udechukwu, Two of us are here, 2018. Ink on paper, 40.6 x 30.4cm. Courtesy of SMO Contemporary.

Her writing stretches across over half a century of poetic musing, floating in sync alongside ink drawings and watercolour paintings which were created in the last few years living in Los Angeles, where she currently has her studio. Udechukwu is an artist whose pen meanders across inner and outer worlds, connecting thoughts, memories, and feelings across patterns, lines, and monochromatic spheres. The fragility of her complex web of expression draws on decades of life experience, and quietly comes to rest in our consciousness. Ada Udechukwu’s ‘Particles in Motion’ will be on view at SMO Contemporary, Lagos, from the 1st of May until the 31st of July 2021. To learn more about the art of Ada Udechukwu visit www.smocontemporaryart.com

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