Wole Lagunju’s hybrid paintings of traditional Gelede masks are juxtaposed with images of modern women in the W estern world and redefine the forms and philosophies of Yoruba visual art and design. He re-imagines and transforms cultural icons appropriated from the Dutch Golden and Elizabethan ages interspersed with elements from the Western world in the fifties and sixties. Lagunju’s cultural references, mined from the eras of colonisation and decolonisation of the African continent, critique the racial and social structures of the 19th century whilst evoking commentaries on power, femininity and womanhood.
Wole was awarded a Phillip Ravenhill Fellowship by the UCLA in 2006 and a Pollock Krasner award in 2009. He currently lives in the United States. Artist Statement
“My paintings of Yoruba Gelede masks juxtaposed with classical and iconic Western imagery explore the notions of race, femininity, womanhood and sexuality. They are also meant to be contemporary redefinitions of traditional Yoruba visual art.
Gelede (Ge means to ‘pet or tenderly deal with’; ele refers to a woman’s genitalia and de, ‘to soften them with gentleness’) is a male dance by which men celebrate women, their physical attributes, sacred powers and motherhood. I have chosen therefore, to celebrate the masks by making visual compositions of ‘new’ Gelede masquerades dressed in the ceremonial regalia of the Western world. In doing this, I mean to critique, racial and cultural stereotypes and ideology. These are values and stereotypes that generate assumptions of a dominant cultural prerogative and singular historical perspective within issues of power and gender and identity.”
– Wole Lagunju