New Art Exchange presents Dellu, a showcase of textural works and performances on film from Enam Gbewonyo, winner of the NAE Open 2022 Exhibition Prize. Enam is a British-Ghanian textile and performance artist, curator, and founder of BBFA (Black British Female Artist) collective.
Her art practice investigates identity – womanhood in particular, whilst advocating the healing benefits of craft. She uses performance as a vessel, creating live spaces of healing and direction to a positive place of awareness to counter systems of oppression such as racism and sexism. Her work enables audiences to face the truth of the dark past surrounding colonial legacies and the emotions it brings forth.
Recent exhibitions include Body Poetics at Southampton’s GIANT Gallery, and Rites of Passage at Gagosian in London. Her work has been exhibited internationally at the 58th Venice Biennale, Art X Lagos, and UNTITLED Art Fair Miami to name a few. In 2022 she was one of 16 artists selected for the prestigious Black Rock residency in Dakar, Senegal, founded by acclaimed artist Kehinde Wiley.
She is represented by London-based gallery TAFETA, who specialise in 20th-century and contemporary African art. She is a 2022 recipient of the Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award and winner of the 2022 Dentons Art Prize.
The exhibition is presented in two parts:
Act I: Nude Me / Under the Skin
Nude Me / Under the Skin is a series of works started in 2016, that investigates the relationship between black women and hosiery, charting the history of that relationship back to some of its earliest renditions as stockings in the 18th century and its ties to slavery and colonisation. The work in this series also looks at connections to the Windrush generation, where black women from the Caribbean and Africa sustained the empire’s National Health Service. Tights which were a mandatory part of their uniform play a subtle role in the subjugation they experienced in those roles while also bearing silent witness to its effects on their mental health. Sustainability and dance, specifically ballet, is also incorporated into her work referencing racism in ballet and the environmental impact of the tights industry. Through this series, Gbewonyo addresses how resilient black women were, and still are, and the many ways they have been subjugated while still finding ways to pull through. In contrast it also explores the detrimental effects on black women’s mental health and provides space for healing through both the 2D artworks and performance pieces.
Act II: Dellu
DELLU (translation from Wolof: The Return) is a series of work commissioned by New Art Exchange, made in 2023, and featuring the artist’s most ambitious film work to date. These works were developed as part of Enam’s residency at Black Rock Senegal, where she spent six weeks exploring the role French colonisation played in changing the shape of Senegalese women’s lives up to the present day, Senegal’s strained history, as well as its rich traditions. Nature plays a fundamental part in the work, informed by the striking backdrops to rituals performed in the performance film, and referenced in the colours and textures used in the costumes and textile works. As with the works in Nude Me / Under the Skin, Le Retour seeks to break the cycle of generational and lived trauma that Senegalese women carry.
This exhibition is the artist’s first institutional solo show, and the largest solo presentation of her work to date.