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REWA ||| i'je awel'le: A Beautiful Journey, A Safe Journey



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$8000 to

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Thursday, 3 June 2021 to Saturday, 17 July 2021
Saturday, 5 June 2021 - 12:00pm to 7:00pm

1 June 2021 (New Orleans, LA) JONATHAN FERRARA GALLERY is pleased to announce i’je awel’le: A Beautiful Journey, A Safe Journey, a solo exhibition of new figurative paintings by REWA, a Nigerian artist and 2018 NO DEAD ARTISTS International Juried Exhibition finalist.  REWA identifies her art as Igbo Vernacular Art, which she considers to exist outside of formal academic or Western dialogue. i’je awel’le: A Beautiful Journey, A Safe Journey is deeply anchored to the legacy of the ancient Nigerian kingdom of Onicha Ado n’Idu and the spiritual tradition of journeying into the foreign land.


The artist says of this exhibition…

I am Igbo and my ancestors come from the ancient kingdom of Onicha Ado n’Idu, tracing an ancestry and dynasty of over 400 years from the reign of Eze Chima to the current Igwe (ruler).


To give additional historical context, many tribes which make up Nigeria today came from far-off countries such as Egypt and Sudan, many centuries ago. One such tribe are the people that comprise the kingdom of Benin. According to many historical citations, the people of Onicha left Benin to seek a new place of settlement in the 16th century during the tyrannical rule of the Oba of the Kingdom. These emigrants were nicknamed “Onicha” which means “Despiser”, due to the violent nature with which they plundered through the kingdom during their exodus, using the firearms that were relics of the Portuguese colonial influence.


In my native land, Onicha, forming the tribe of Igbos that hail from the South-eastern part of Nigeria, travels outside our geographical domain are regular and have played historical significance in our choice of settlement. My hometown sits on the River Niger which flows from the grounds of the Fouta Djallon mountains in nearby Guinea. Every ethnic group has a rather interesting approach and attitude to life. For us, the Onichas, who live and trade on the banks of the River Niger, we really had no choice but to imbibe the cross-cultural influences that have brought to bear as a major land and maritime trading post.


Fast forward to modern-day and the term “Despiser” can no longer be said to be relevant to our demeanour as we embrace tribal and global integration. As we traverse the globe seeking fame and fortune, we have a tendency to quickly adopt, and assimilate into, other cultures and lifestyles. Our vibrant youths take on every adventure ranging from education to sports and music. The theme Awele connotes the spirituality of positive traverse and ascendancy. We are Igbos, the people of Onicha, and all the attendant divine blessings of travel and akalaka, divine destiny, come to us naturally.


In this series, i’je awel’le: A Beautiful Journey, A Safe Journey, we see my recurring characters, as well as some new ones, undertake further voyage into the foreign land. Some of them have journeyed into love, as we see with ofu obi, love nwantinti and anyi bu ofu. Others such as efizzy, dubem, Somto in pink jeans and asusu anya have journeyed into modern self-pride, shaking off traditional expectations – there is a flourish of personality juxtaposed with some sensibility in their fashion. They convey a certain sense in their pose, the “uche”, the intangible thing that elevates the work for that moment in time in which it exists, the moment decisive.


As with their ancestors before them, my subjects in i’je awel’le are undergoing constant journey, continuously moving forward, each one traveling his or her own path. No two journeys are similar nor can they be replicated because each subject is unique and so are their circumstances. And so, we bid them i’je awel’le: A Beautiful Journey, A Safe Journey.


The exhibition will be on view from 3 June through 17 July 2021 with an opening reception coinciding with the Arts District of New Orleans’ (ADNO) First Saturday Gallery Openings on Saturday, 5 June from 12 pm - 7 pm. For more information, press or sales inquiries please contact Gallery Director Matthew Weldon Showman at 504.343.6827 or Please join the conversation with JFG on Facebook (@JonathanFerraraGallery), Twitter (@JFerraraGallery), and Instagram (@JonathanFerraraGallery) via the hashtags:  #REWA, #JonathanFerraraGallery, and #ArtsDistrictNewOrleans.


Artist ( Description ): 

REWA was born and raised between Nigeria and England and received a BSc. in Physiology and Pharmacology from University College London (UCL). She previously worked as the Head of Corporate Development and Investor Relations for a Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed company. Prior to this, she was the Specialty Insurance Executive for Old Mutual West Africa and a Management Consultant at Accenture (UK). 


Never having received formal art training, she is self-taught and developed her innate talent from a very early age. Growing up, her father encouraged her creative drive, his expansive art collection from West Africa, providing further impetus for her development. Her formal training as a physiologist / pharmacologist at UCL also prepared her for what has become an exciting journey; she learned to observe in greater detail and to seek deeper meaning. 


She knew a few truths about what ignited a frenzy - when going for long stretches creating art with a particular song or artist playing on a continuous loop - but still sought a clear “artistic direction”. She finds that her spirit is moved by what she refers to as “depicted sentience” and through the celebration of the female form and bright, vivid colours. Her preferred medium of acrylics and watercolours on cartridge paper provides the immediacy, proximity and transparency to express her most personal experiences and influences living between Lagos, London and Johannesburg, cities she considers home.


REWA decided to pursue art as a form of catharsis following a nadir. She created her first 14-piece body of work, The Pantheon, celebrating Nigerian deities which was very well received and led to her appointment as ReLe Gallery’s 2017 Young Contemporary in Lagos, Nigeria. In this same year, the prestigious Gallery of African Art (GAFRA) in Mayfair, London invited REWA to participate in a joint exhibition, Her Story: Sisterhood That Transcends, alongside a acclaimed Dutch photographer, Dagmar van Weeghel. Her collection, Onicha Ado N’Idu delved into the significance of naming rites and traditions within the Igbo culture in Nigeria – how the names shape the identity of the individuals they are bestowed upon. 

REWA’s work was featured at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) in Brooklyn, New York as part of MoCADA’s annual 2017 gala. Most recently, she participated in the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery’s No Dead Artists 22nd Annual show in New Orleans, USA. 


REWA’s artwork represents and glorifies women in our numerous forms; as goddesses, as travelers and most recently, as inexorable forces behind naming rites of the Igbo culture. 

She has finally found her truth in a voice that is unique to her, one that has induced prolonged frenzies and abundant hours of introverted happiness and zen. For REWA, art creation is synonymous with catharsis and her creations are her life’s diary. 

Venue ( Address ): 

400a Julia Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

Ferrara Showman Gallery , New Orleans

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