A Visual Storyteller in Universal Language of Creativity…

Now in the UK, Nigerian-born female visual artist Anehita Aletor resumes her serialised take on the slices of life in her recent paintings. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke writes 

Not since her post-COVID lockdown solo exhibition, titled Untold Story Series and Joker Series, has Anehita Aletor’s creativity bloomed with such audacious grace and unbridled passion. With another solo show in view next year, the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma graduate has, since her relocation to the UK, been obviously intentional about prioritising her art practice—in the midst of a cacophony of other distractions bordering on the pecuniary—in a bid to take it to the next level. 

All in the quest to lift a corner of the veil on the emotions that thrum beneath the leathery faces sillioned with age, this self-proclaimed expressionist storyteller dredges up the very essence of humanity through her brush strokes. This attempt to illuminate the enigmatic recesses of the human mind urges the viewer to look beyond the mortal casings, cloaking the actual animating essence lurking beneath them. 

This is why it helps to see her latest artistic series, titled “Ageing Gracefully,” as more than mere visual representation—or even profound psychological studies—that seek to capture those subtle nuances beneath the physically visible. They are rather groping for those profound sentiments that resonate with the very core of human existence. Through a masterful interplay of vibrant acrylic hues, she paints a vivid and poignant ode to the resilient spirit and inner luminosity that radiate from the weathered faces of elderly women—a portrayal of the enduring belief that joy and contentment serve as the truest embodiments of timeless beauty.

These soul-stirring depictions do indeed impel the viewer to introspective odysseys into the unfathomable depths of the human mind and to dredge up the indelible imprints left by his daily encounters in this realm of dense materiality. Hence, valuable are the moments spent in reverent gaze before her transcendent acrylic paintings, which are portals into realities, serving as poignant reminders that authentic beauty springs not from ephemeral exterior appearances but from the enduring strength and resilience that reside within the very essence of all humanity.

In this celebration of the aged, Aletor immortalises the indelible stories etched within the gracefully etched lines of each wrinkle, with every curve and crease whispering tales of a life embraced and cherished. In breathing life into her canvases, she imbues each stroke with a sense of palpable vitality and resonant depth that beckons the soul to celebrate the enduring narratives engraved within her art.

Another series, which she titles “The Contrarians,”  is a series of portraits that depict alternate realities and opinions. These realities and opinions might indeed be a deviation from the mean or an embodiment of the unpopular. But the artist chooses to see them as prescient heralds of societal metamorphosis. Unlike the iconoclast, she argues, the contrarian is not merely interested in usurping authority; they are often seekers of truth trapped in the labyrinth of perspectives. According to her, their primary goal is to exhaustively review the options as they relate to their well-being and the state of their environment, even if this implies shaking the table with their dissent. They also widen the scope of debates, ensuring that the premise is not trivial but exhaustive, a beacon in the fog of conformity. Put more succinctly, at a time when groupthink is on the rise, those who question the status quo are essential pillars of progress. In the end, being a contrarian is not just about scrutinising popular positions but about nurturing discourses vital for the souls of just societies.

In her “Sugar Cane Daddy” and “Nana Cubana” series, a sense of awe encourages viewers to delve deeper into the complexities of identity, culture, and history. Through the paintings, in which the past melds seamlessly with the present, creating a vivid tableau of resilience and transformation, the artist captures the essence of African culture and heritage woven into the fabric of West Indian and Latin American culture. The elderly figures in these works exude a flamboyant charm, challenging societal norms with their unconventional pairings of cigars and fruits, sweets and insects. These symbolic representations of masculinity and femininity converge in a spotlight of contradictions, blurring the lines between tradition and innovation. With each nuanced detail, she invites the viewer to question conventional perceptions and embrace the rich diversity of human experience.

The vibrancy of colour and character in Aletor’s work is a testament to the enduring spirit of the black race, a narrative of strength and adaptation passed down through generations.

Through the lens of history and culture, she paints a portrait of empowerment and resilience, highlighting the untold stories of African women who paved the way for future generations. An example is the Nana Lisa piece, which embodies the legacy of those who stood tall in the face of adversity, embodying grace and dignity amidst hardship.

In the “Nana Cubana” series, she pays homage to the Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean women who shaped the Americas with their labour and dreams. These women, descendants of enslaved peoples, bear witness to a legacy of struggle and triumph, their voices echoing through time with a resounding call for justice and recognition.

With the “Juneteenth Girl” Collection, she celebrates the global journey of Afro-descendant women, honouring their achievements and aspirations. The collection serves as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of coloured women, who continue to inspire and pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable world.

Indeed, her art is a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the universal language of creativity.

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