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Culture Diaries; Aso Oke -The Woven Beauty By Tunde Owolabi

AsoOke – The Woven Beauty is an exhibition aimed at depicting the cultural value, significance and beauty of Aso-Oke, a fabric that originates from the Yoruba culture of Nigeria. It is the fabric without which kings cannot be crowned and a bride’s look is lacking. As the saying goes, without aso-oke, the occasion is incomplete – when you go to a Nigerian wedding or party, be it in Lagos, London or Atlanta, the possibility of seeing aso-oke on display is 99.99 percent guaranteed. A tapestry of history and cultural heritage weaved together in Paintings, Photography, Sound and Film Installations, Photo-painting (combination of photography & painting), and Mixed media, Tunde has created a melting pot of cultural narratives with his use of multi-dimensional storytelling after months of working with local artisans to put a focus on a tradition that must not and refuses to die.

Borne out of a need to showcase the art of creative artisanship and the splendour of beauty that is the finished product, Owolabi said: “The reason I chose aso-oke is because of its cultural value and vibrancy. While learning about it, I realised there is more to the fabric. The dynamism with which it has evolved over time from the traditional type to the more modern aso-oke we see lately also got me interested. The process of making it alone is an art that leaves no gender out of the fun and experience. These days, weddings and other occasions are incomplete without aso-oke, and that shows the power and importance of this fabric. It was created by the Yoruba people of Nigeria for the world. I want to make people appreciate this fabric more, and see how much of an art it is. If we don’t celebrate what we have, no one will.

As one of the few surviving forms of textile design left in Nigeria, the existence of aso-oke is increasingly being threatened by the likes of China that that can mass produce traditional African fabrics but end up with low quality product. But for those who know what quality aso-oke should be, they still opt for the choice of going through the local weavers who own and embrace the art. It is to this end that Tunde says his vision is to demonstrate that when the old world meets the new world, magic is possible. An exhibition of cultural affirmation which confirms that culture indeed remains one of the fundamental factors that connects and underpins the social, cultural, and economic structures in society. At a time when it is increasingly important to tell the world who you are through your heritage, AsoOke – The Woven Beauty expresses elegantly the beauty and opulence of a people’s culture and history and reiterates that aso-oke stands out in a multitude of fabrics.

About Tunde Owolabi

Tunde Owolabi was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied painting under the tutelage of Professor Abayomi Barber, a renowned Nigerian artist at the University of Lagos, and obtained a degree in Graphic Design from Yaba College of Technology. After his degree, Tunde became a freelance artist, a journey that led him to develop a keen interest in photography. He went on to study photography and photo retouching at the University of the Arts London. Tunde worked as a designer at the research studios London under Neville Brody, a respected English graphic designer, typographer and art director. When Tunde returned to Nigeria in 2009, he worked with Insight Communications, an advertising agency as an art director. He left advertising in 2012, to start StudioMO, with a friend, and Tunde Owolabi Studios, and has since become a full time studio artist, photographer and designer.  Tunde has participated in group exhibitions including Lines and Colours (2003), Inner Thoughts at the Nimbus African Art Centre (2004), Working with Communities, a Guinness group exhibition (2004), and Gods of This Age at Didi Museum. His first solo exhibition, African Elegance was at the Battersea Art Gallery, London (2009). His commissioned works can be found at the Hungarian Embassy and Nigerian Stock Exchange. AsoOke – The Woven Beauty is his second solo exhibition. Tunde lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.

Red Door Contemporary Art Gallery

Our Founders have been collecting and dealing in (mainly African) contemporary art for decades. Our passion is driven by the belief that art is the ultimate form of expression of man’s inner most thoughts. For artists, we provide a platform to express their creativity without any societal boundaries. We discourage “predictable art” as predictable art is neither inspirational nor is it collectable.

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