Hauntology: Ghostly Matters
Curated by Aindrea Emelife
ruby onyinyechi amanze
M. Florine Démosthène
Shannon T. Lewis
“Black experience in any modern city or town in the Americas is a haunting. One enters a room and history follows; one enters a room and history precedes.”
- DIONNE BRAND, A Map to the Door of No Return
Mariane Ibrahim is pleased to announce Hauntology: Ghostly Matters, a group exhibition curated by Nigerian-British curator, Aindrea Emelife. The show is on view in Chicago from January 27 - April 1, 2023, featuring work by Okikioluwa Akinfe, ruby onyinyechi amanze, M. Florine Démosthène, Miranda Forrester, Taiye Idahor, Shannon T. Lewis, Olukemi Lijadu and Temitayo Ogunbiyi.
Coined by Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book Specters of Marx, Hauntology is used to describe a sense in which contemporary culture is quite literally haunted by the “lost futures” of modernity. Emelife positions this perspective alongside the African concept of Ubuntu, in which our sense of self is shaped by our relationships with others, creating a way of living that begins with the translation and resulting premise, “I am” only because “we are." With this, the exhibition explores the ideas of Black womanhood - the soul, the body, the mind - and seeks to find healing and restoration, promoting oneness rather than fragmentation by uniting the many perspectives of female artists from Africa and the diaspora.
The work of Olukemi Lijadu emphasizes the concept of African anthropology and how that relates to personhood and the body in a holistic sense. One of the crossover themes explores how Black womanhood is also embedded in an intricate network of relationships with family (living and dead), the community, God and nature. This view is the antithesis of Greek and the later Cartesian view with its dualistic split between body and soul. The film explores the artist’s relationship with religion, informed by her grandmother, a study of African philosophy, and her Catholic upbringing which come together to represent the fragments of her identity.
Avery F. Gordon’s book Ghostly Matters talks about the haunting of history peeking through, in which she writes, “haunting is not the same as being exploited, traumatized, or oppressed, although it usually involves these experiences or is produced by them.” Instead, Gordon argues, haunting is a kind of “animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known.”
The past and the present are not discrete categories, like dead and alive, planes on top of planes. Collage speaks to this construction, as embodied by Shannon T. Lewis whose assemblage painting style fragments the form to whimsical effect, but it is in the pursuit of freedom; freedom from stereotype, archetype and marginalization. They are free in their multiplicity, as are Okikioluwa Akinfe’s bodies, which retreat and confront from within blurred lines between figuration and abstraction. With lyrical fluidity, Akinfe interrogates social body language and how race and cultural upbringing enhances or weakens archetypes applied to Black women.
Temitayo Ogunbiyi envisions how parts of the body, her own and other bodies of color, can come together to create new compositions that consider community, environment, interdependence, and spirituality. Looking principally to forms found in nature, and how they can be emulated by human gestures such as hairstyling, the work brings together tradition and nature. Inspired by Yoruba adages, the work imbues the idea that every living being has a spirit.
Similarly, Taiye Idahor’s focus on hair as a motif symbolizes ancestral connections, family, lineage and history. Unraveling the complexities of identity, her work employs a surrealistic style embedded with symbols that reflect tradition and memory.
M. Florine Démosthène exists between dream and nightmare, possibility and actually, as she explores the Black female body as a myriad of collective experiences beyond immediate interpretations based on sensuality. Whereas Miranda Forrester’s exploration of the queer Black female gaze also serves to address the invisibility of women of color in art history.
The show also nods to Toni Morrison’s Sula, which imagines Black women dreaming as one, imagining possible and impossible futures. ruby onyinyechi amanze forms a world that imagines boundless futures for Black women. Celebrating the oneness of ubuntu, the weightlessness of the work negotiates away from the heaviness of linear time, understanding the contemporary mythologies and the futuristic feeling of now.
“Positioned squarely in a fixed liminality, the show explores spaces of hybridity that Black women exist in. As Black women, we are haunted by expectations, historical and cultural stereotypes, that are fixed principally on our bodies and how they exist and have existed in the world. These artists create as protection, to explore and create the possibilities of the future and new memories of the past. It is survival. Haunting is not negative, it is a profound invention.” - Aindrea Emelife
About Aindrea Emelife
Aindrea Emelife is a curator and art historian specializing in modern and contemporary art, with a focus on questions around colonial and decolonial histories in Africa, transnationalism and the politics of representation. Born in London, United Kingdom, Emelife studied at The Courtauld Institute of Art before embarking on a multifaceted career as a curator and art historian, producing highly acclaimed exhibitions for museums, galleries and private collections internationally. Recent exhibitions include BLACK VENUS; a survey of the legacy of the Black woman in visual culture which opened at Fotografiska NY and will tour to MOAD (San Francisco, USA) and Somerset House (London, UK) in 2023.
Emelife’s first book, A Brief History of Protest Art was released by Tate in March 2022, Emelife has contributed to exhibition catalogues and publications, most recently including Revising Modern British Art (Lund Humphries, 2022) In 2021, Emelife was appointed to the Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, and in 2022, she was named as the Curator at Large, Modern and Contemporary at EMOWAA (Edo Museum of West African Art).