A Whitespace Creative Agency presents REDEMPTION by Adeola Olagunju.
This body of work explores the artist’s personal journey to healing, following a near-death experience, using self-portraiture and the re-staging of traditional Yoruba healing rituals. The stunning works which comprise of two series, “Navigating a Dark Space” and “Home Is,” were created between Lagos and Dusseldorf. They interrogate the space between trauma and healing, belonging and home with images that at once document, reconstruct, perform and imagine.
The viewer is taken on a journey which begins with Navigating a Dark Space. After a devastating experience which led to a surgical procedure that left her without a voice, panic became a “thing” within her family. She became exposed to layers of beliefs and faiths, including Irapada, a Yoruba term that translates as “Redemption” and signifies a spiritual procession which is performed mostly on severely sick people as a way of renewing their lives. The camera became an important part of Olagunju’s healing process, acting as witness and connecting her to the essential parts of her life. The first photographs were taken by family and friends, who in a sense became surrogates for the artist, as she asked them to document her presence in the hospital and recovering at home. As she grew stronger Olagunju re-staged the flashbacks of the Irapada and the moments and feelings of vulnerability and imbalance that ensued. She says: “I began to stage from memory what I had been through as a means to release my unconscious fears and heal my mind.”
Home Is emerged 2 years after her initial diagnosis. The large scale colour photographs were created while on an artist’s residency in Dusseldorf, but in definite relationship to her home Nigeria. Borrowing from the city’s colourful carnival, the artist re-enacts a performance of home rituals, as a way of rooting deeply into this new space in Germany. Her project explores questions of identity and belonging in a foreign land, offering a way to once again refer to Yoruba traditional belief systems as an anchor and centre, even as she felt distant from the comfort of home.
Through REDEMPTION, Olagunju has developed a visual language and form, which references personal history and belief. It has become an aesthetic and space of her own making and a testament to a strong arrival on the other side.