I first saw Wole Lagunju’s work at AKAA fair in Paris. His towering and colourful painting Suburbia (2017) featured a hybrid and androgynous character, quintessentially modern and stylish from neck to toe who sported an intricate Gelede Mask as a head. It caught people’s attention and a passionate debate ensued over the gender of the character. Was it a man or a woman?
In that context, their gender didn’t matter. In Yoruba traditional culture, men wear various Guelede masks and perform dance routines in celebration of women’s natural powers. The issue at the heart of the painting and Lagunju’s work concerns the manufactured hierarchy of cultures. His work is an invitation to take a physical and metaphorical step back, look at history and question past narratives and representations.
A few months later, he was exhibiting at the London Art fair with Ed Cross Fine Art Gallery. The show curated by Katherine Finerty recreated the intimacy of a salon conducive to further discussions about identity, colonisation and culture. So I reached out to the artist, through Ed Cross, to know more about him and his work, and continue the virtual conversation started with his work.
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