Ngozi-Omeje Ezema, Boundless Vases, installation view at kó Lagos, 2021.
Ngozi-Omeje Ezema represents the new generation of contemporary Nigerian ceramists who infuse modernist sensibilities into an age-old traditional art form, radically challenging long-established notions that locate ceramics within the limiting frame of its utilitarian function. Boundless Vases features recent ceramic art installations that present the artist’s ongoing exploration of the leaf motif as an expressive visual element rich in affective metaphors. Taking her personal experiences as a point of departure, her work addresses issues relating to identity, family and the female body. She often references the object of the vessel in various ways, taking inspiration from the forms and materials of the natural environment.
In her works, the material properties of leaves are used as formal and narrative handles to address issues relating to womanhood. For the artist, the leaf motif represents a state of being; a transient element whose materiality symbolically dramatizes rites of passage and its associated conditions of liminality. As the artist explains, “The leaf represents aspects of tenderness in women that is often taken for granted. The leaf is equally suggestive of the long suffering that women undergo in relationships. When you look at the colour of the leaves in my work, they give the impression that the leaves have dried, yet they still retain their beauty”.
Ngozi-Omeje Ezema trained as a ceramic artist at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 2009, the same year she completed her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme in ceramics, she was offered a teaching appointment at the Nsukka art department. For the past decade, she has combined art teaching with a vibrant studio practice. Ezema’s training at the Nsukka art department strongly impacted her artistic development. Her exposure to the culture of experimentation and exploration which drive the creative philosophy of the Nsukka art department opened up her mind to the possibilities of creating art using unconventional methods and commonplace materials. Ngozi-Omeje Ezema represents the new generation of contemporary Nigerian ceramists who infuse modernist sensibilities into an age-old traditional art form, radically challenging long-established notions that locate ceramics within the limiting frame of its utilitarian function.