Unmasked Exhibition: A Show of Strength

As you step through the front door of The Wheatbaker, you see the giant web with floating cubes. The eight foot black web is striking but not confrontational. The colours of its cubes are muted and the marks on them almost indiscernible as if to tone down its beauty and whisper its message. Its appeal is that it appears firm but delicate, elaborate but subtle, yoked but independent. However you wonder, is this web a safe haven or a trap?

The string installation by Reha Shishodia characterizes the Unmasked exhibition that opened at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi on Saturday, 10th March 2018. Presenting works by seven female artists from all over the world, but all with links to Lagos, the exhibition features poetry, ceramic works, string installation, photographs, digital art and paintings. Unmasked is the third edition of ‘Standing Out’ the yearly female artist exhibition curated by SMO Contemporary Art.

It was an interesting experience viewing this presentation in a non-traditional exhibition space. The Wheatbaker provides an intimate and relaxed ambiance for the viewer. Walking round the display areas—the corridors and lounges, you can picture the art on the walls of your own home or office. But this charming experience is almost ruined when you have to stand too close to guests sitting in the lounge or even ask some to move their heads so as to get a good look at a particular work (most were pleasantly accommodating).

What I love most about Unmasked? It is not a pity party. It is a celebration of how far women have come. It depicts strength in the face of stereotype. The brave words, the bold colours, the expressive brushstrokes and the unapologetic beauty of the works show that these women are done with hiding their true colours to please others. The helpful biographical labels provided for each artist say it all: these artists are standing up and out.

Below is one work from each artist’s collection and excerpts from her biographical label.

Koromone Yobaere Koroye
We are the Girls


“The poem is a reminder to the world that the girls are coming out and are no longer hiding themselves behind closed doors and traditions.”


Nengi Omuku




“Her work functions as a metaphor alluding to wider themes, one of which is difference: between sexes, as well as presumed racial differences. She questions the encounter, How do we react when we meet one another? Fear or understand, beckon or flee?”




Djakou Kassi Nathalie



“As women, we are more impacted by the happenings of society and culture. … My art reminds us that we are responsible for what goes on around us, and at large in the world.”



Nyancho NwaNri

“As women we bear the burden of high expectations from the society … Sometimes we hide behind clothes and make up… What I should wear encourages women to reject those projections.”

What should I Wear IV 1 – 5
Queen Nwaneri
Ray of Light I & II


“The body of work talks about emotions and thoughts that revolves around a woman. … The strokes and pallet knife techniques were used to provoke viewers’ attention into layers of the thoughts going through abstracted portrait”


Somi Nwandu
Self with Side-eye



“The future is digital. My artwork presents a story of the future and the past: my future and my past. I express the desire to hide and be seen, simultaneously, and the hesitations to treasure true beauty and strength.”



Reha Shishodia
Woman – The Cradle of Civilisation



“The inspiration behind this work is the belief that women hold everything together just like my black strings. Women are the centrifugal force in the society.”






Exhibition runs from 10th March to 4th May 2018


Adekemi is a lawyer and writer with a passion for the arts, particularly African art history. She is dedicated to discovering and documenting the most excellent artworks of our time. Follow her on Twitter at adekemitweets.
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