Published November 18, 2019
Eniloa Dawodu, a British-born Nigerian textile artist, costume designer and cultural archivist, will discuss her exhibition, “Punctures: Textiles in Digital and Material Time,” at its opening on Nov. 22 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center as part of her upcoming residency in UB’s Creative Arts Initiative (CAI).
The exhibition opens at 6 p.m. with a talk scheduled for 7:30 p.m. that night between Dawodu and Amy Sall, founder and editor-in-chief of the forthcoming publication SUNU: Journal of African Affairs, Critical Thought & Aesthetics, which will seek to amplify emerging voices and perspectives on matters concerning Africa and the diaspora.
“Punctures” consists of three separate but interconnected exhibitions and public programs featuring installations by artists invested in textile history, media art and liberation politics, and whose work demonstrates aspects of trans-fashion and domesticity, the division of labor along gender and ethnicity under global racial capitalism, and the protest and power represented by the Gelede (African ritual festival) women’s commemoration.
In addition to Dawodu’s own work, “Punctures” features installations by Betty Yu, Cecilia Vicuña, Charlie Best, Kite and Sabrina Gschwandtner, with performances by Best, Jodi Lynn Maracle and Kite, and screenings of work by Jodie Mack, Pat Ferrero, Sabrina Gschwandtner and Wang Bing.
“The exhibition is an exciting opportunity to share a narrative and highly charged element of traditional West African textiles and methods of self-presentation with the Buffalo community,” Dawodu says. “By acknowledging the wisdom of ancestral methodologies, I honor their past, present and future. I believe this repository to be a most appropriate manner to express the density of the black experience, its vastness and inability to be categorized loosely.”
“Punctures” will be on display at Squeaky Wheel through Dec. 22. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Based in Dakar, Senegal, and Brooklyn, Dawodu’s passion for cultural archiving is a distillation of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmène Sembene’s warning, which she quotes: “If Africans do not tell their own stories, Africa will soon disappear.”
Dawodu’s specific response to Sembene is her textile art, which grew from the traditions preserved in the Yorùbá (a West Africa ethnic group) household of her youth.
There, she became familiar with resplendent communal dressing and the wisdom of a Yorùbá parable that teaches, “It is the cloth we should greet before greeting the wearer.”
Curious to learn more and intrigued by the energy of archival cloth and the historical messages woven within the material, Dawodu began to source vintage aso oke (a cloth denoting high status) textiles for garment creation.
“Meanwhile, designing costumes for film allowed me the opportunity to reimagine personal style and self-presentation as a tool for storytelling and the expression of a character’s arc and self-identity,” she says. “I began to seek and record the narratives of African diasporic peoples told through traditional cloth and dress practice.”
Dawodu’s residency also includes a lecture, “Release + Reframe: Ancestral Aesthetics, Collective Elevation,” to be delivered jointly to UB’s Department of Global Gender and Sexuality Studies and the Department of Theatre and Dance at 5 p.m. Nov. 20 in 195 Alumni Arena, North Campus. She’ll also hold a youth workshop that will explore clothing and memory, with details to be determined.
The CAI is a university-wide initiative dedicated to the creation and production of new work upholding the highest artistic standards of excellence and fostering a complementary atmosphere of creative investigation and engagement among students, faculty, visiting artists and the community.
Through its Artist-in-Residence program and its innovative, interdisciplinary offerings for students, CAI is raising the profile of UB and Buffalo in the world of artistic expression and revitalizing the initiative’s proud tradition as a leader in contemporary art.