Through cinema and installation, Onyeka Igwe’s (b. 1986, London) multidisciplinary practice examines little-known historic events by collecting and combining documentary sources including government records, official reports, material artifacts, and personal memory, as well as gesture, voice, dance, and song. This exhibition features a series of three shorts—Her Name in My Mouth (2017), Sitting on a Man (2018), and Specialised Technique (2018)—presented as expanded cinema. The layered structure of Igwe’s films exposes the narrative multiplicities of contemporary life and contests Western ideology’s singular, progressive origin story. Her rhythmic editing style emphasizes the dissonance, reflection, and amplification between image and sound, set within a spatial installation. The principal subject of the film cycle is the 1929 Aba Women’s War, which Igwe first learned about from family lore. Led primarily by Igbo women, the conflict is considered one of the first anti-colonial uprisings in Nigeria and marks a violent episode in the defense of the British Empire. By conceptually recovering the repressed history of this collective act of resistance, Igwe finds, even in the tragedies of the past, new means for understanding the present. The exhibition highlights the artist’s ongoing interest in the relation between physical movement—that is, dance—and protest movements, especially those enacted by women.
Onyeka Igwe lives and works in London, United Kingdom. She received an MA from Goldsmiths College and a PhD from the University of the Arts, London. Recent solo projects and exhibitions have been organized by the High Line, New York (2022); LUX, London, FORMA, London, and Mercer Union, Toronto (all 2021); Jerwood Arts, London (2019); Alchemy Film and Arts/Unit 4, Hawick, Scotland and Trinity Square Video, Toronto (both 2018). She has participated in group exhibitions at Display, Prague (2022); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2022); Tabakalera, San Sebastian (2022); Jarman Award Tour / Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2022); Neue Galerie, Innsbruck (2021); Liverpool Biennial (2021); MUNTREF and Club Cultural Matienzo, Buenos Aires (2019); The Showroom, London (2018); Articule, Montreal (2018); and Cordova, Vienna (2017). Her films have screened at festivals including the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2020, 2019 and 2018); London Film Festival (2020 and 2015); Images Festival, Toronto (2019); Smithsonian African American Film Festival, Washington, D.C. (2018); ICA Artists’ Film Club (2017); Edinburgh Artist Moving Image (2016); and Nuit Blanche, Toronto (2016). Igwe is a member of the London-based collective Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.), established in 2018.
Image: Onyeka Igwe, Sitting on a Man (video still), 2018 / courtesy of MoMA PS1