Montague Contemporary presents ‘WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH YOUR OWN ÀJẸ́?’. Wole Lagunju’s first solo exhibition in New York.
Wole Lagunju, GODDESS II, 2022. Oil on Canvas, 73.5 x 57 inches. Courtesy of the artist & Montague Contemporary.
To the average Yoruba, Àjẹ́ is a witch. Often conceptualised as an extraterrestrial force or being that uses the cover of darkness for nefarious activities to perpetrate evil and to kill. In the process it sucks blood from its victims while transforming its body into ghostly birds or deadly black cat. In its many manifestations, its activities are believed to be nocturnal.
The term Àjẹ́, has two distinct but inseparable connotations like two sides of a coin. The most common is the negative association evoking a terrifying prospect of otherworldly forces and agents of the netherworld in constant struggle against the less formidable and unknowing acolytes of contemporary society. The second on the other hand, conceptualises the terminology as the possession of special gifts and creative acumen with which to harness spiritual powers for the transformation of society. The good positive protects its own. She is Àjẹ́ Ọlọ́mọ, a doting mother, ever vigilant nurturer and positive agent for societal change and transformation. It is within this second realm that Wole Lagunju situates his own artistic practice.
As a proud Yoruba culture bearer with artistic gifts and powers – hence the crafting of the rhetorical question in the exhibition title: what will you do with your own Àjẹ́? A highly provocative title resulting from a series of conversations between Wole Lagunju and Montague Hermann, on the notions of artistic creativity and spiritual powers in Yoruba cultural landscape. makes visible the boundaries of strange dichotomies: the real and the imagined; the deeply spiritual and the vigorously arcane; the frightfully terrifying and the seriously amusing and their ghoulish articulation in Yoruba religious and cultural landscape.
Lagunju remains uniquely polyvocal and multidimensional in his creative vision and artistic orientation using his art to contest hegemonic spaces, as he maps deeply personal iconography that challenges and celebrates his individual and personal histories. Without any iota of doubts, Lagunju exhibits that complex trait of novelty and experimentation consistent with the Yoruba notion of the artistic personality known as Are – trailblazer, and cultural innovator, like his French counterpart, the Avant Garde, who must set, of necessity, a new artistic agenda for others to emulate. are especially notorious for their brazen boldness, for risk taking and for innovativeness – quintessential ingredients in Yoruba artistic, cultural and religious traditions. Are, are permanent strangers who make constant departures, never at home anywhere
The above is in excerpt from Dr Bolaji Campbell piece written for the exhibitions catalogue. The exhibition will be on view from the 5th of May until the 19th of June 2022. For more information, please visit Montague Contemporary.