Currently undertaking a residency in Lagos as part of Tiwani Contemporary’s artist residency partnership with Guest Artists Space Foundation [G.A.S.], Tiwani will present Umar Rashid’s new body of work in its Lagos space, developed by the artist in response to his time in Africa’s largest city.
For the past seventeen years, the Los Angeles-based artist has documented the complex, historical and episodic saga of a fictional world superpower, the Frenglish Empire, in his narrative-based practice. Between 1658 and 1880, the Frenglish rule a transcontinental area comprising dominions, protectorates and colonies including England, France, Turkey, India, the Caribbean and Australia. In his new series, currently in development, an 18th century Calabar (Efik) woman, Hausa man, Igbo man and Yoruba man enlist with the Company Crocodile, a majority Black military regiment of the Frenglish Empire. Rashid will chart their experiences upon leaving the African continent and setting out on their respective journeys through the world, fighting the battles of the colonialists with their own varied agendas.
The title of the show, The Undiscovered Genius of the Niger Delta, is a nod to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 painting, Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta, while the title of each painting (with the exception of the portraits of the characters themselves) is a stanza from Prince’s pop hit 1999. This is an allusion to the year in which these battles take place and the ethereal quality of the song lyrics.