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Fabric Installation Beyond Boundaries

18 May 2013

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CURRENTLY IN NIGERIA, VICTORIA UDONDIAN, ONE OF NIGERIA’S YOUNG ARTISTS, WHOSE INSTALLATION WORKS HAVE TRAVELED ACROSS THE WORLD, RECENTLY FOCUSed HER ATTENTION ON THE ROLE OF FABRIC ACROSS GENERATIONS. MARY EKAH WRITES

Some of her recent shows abroad included, ‘We face forward,’ ‘Arts from West Africa Today’ at the Whitworth Arts Gallery, University of Manchester, SAS at the Bag factory Studios in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2012; Hidden Drama, an exhibition by Catalyst Women, Arts and Science at the King’s theatre, South Sea, UK 2010.


At home, she had participated in ‘A Kilo of Hope’ at the Yusuf Grillo Gallery, Yaba College of Technology in Lagos, Nigeria 2011; Also at the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Lagos in December and March 2010 respectively. She also staged, The Green Summary and ‘Who is Wearing My T-shirt’?


Her works, Udondian said revolves around the theme of cultural contamination and the continuous interaction between contemporary traditions, which is especially visible in the weaving of textiles. “I work with used fabrics, paper, plastic bags, and other recycled materials, which are cut, sewn, woven, tied, glued and repurposed to create sculptures and installations, which reference textile and clothing histories in Nigeria”, she explained.


According to her, ‘ever since Persian times, hand woven fabrics and carpet have been the manifestation of the cultural sensitivity of the people creating them, with stories, hopes, memories, an entire legacy, handed down through spinning and weaving, and often disclosing evidence of the existence of social hierarchies and a fairly accurate rendition of economic policy of a society.”  Udondian uses and create garments, referencing the use of costume in Nigerian ceremonies and performances, and also uses contemporary mass-produced clothing, which has different connotations of consumption and globalisation crossing over diverse ages and geographical areas. “In my work, the garments used, the weaving and sewing methods employed are imbued with strong ethical and social values; they become the means to investigate the context, the environment, the history of cultures, present realities and traditional activities,” she noted.


Born in 1982 in Nigeria where she still lives and work, Udondian studied at the University of Uyo, graduating with a BA in Painting in 2004. She is an active member of various art groups and collectives including the Society of Nigerian Artist (SNA) and the Catalyst Women Arts and Science in Portsmouth, UK since 2008.


“Before studying painting, I trained as a tailor and fashion designer. My work today is informed by my interest in textiles, in the capacity of clothing to shape identity and the histories and tacit meanings woven into everyday materials”, she recalled.


In 2010, Udondian traveled to Dakar, Accra and Bamako researching the impact of second-hand clothing on the West African textiles industry, and on cultural identity. Interested in confronting notions of ‘authenticity’ and ‘cultural contamination’, she tested conceptions of West African textiles against present and past realities, and was convinced that there exists some consequences on the perception of one’s identity when the language of the fabrics one wears is changed fundamentally,” she stressed.


Udondian’s works therefore revolves around the theme of cultural contamination and the continuous interaction between contemporary traditions, which is especially visible in the weaving of textiles. “I work with used fabrics, paper, plastic bags, and other recycled materials which are cut, sewn, woven, tied, glued and re purposed to create sculptures and installations which reference textile and clothing histories in Nigeria”, she said.


Her   recent works are often presented with an accompanying fictional historical context, in a form of a written narrative or label. “This text tells an historically plausible narrative, placing my work alongside a retelling of facts about Nigerian weaving, the patterns of the European clothing trade, anthropology, colonialism and as well as playing with notions of provenance, origin and historical fact.”

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