"My art is drawn from life itself and deeply anchored in a place and culture from which it was derived. It is my hope that one day, my work will be included in art historical dialogue about Africa and specifically Nigeria, beyond the confines of the wide-reaching Contemporary African Art designation."
R E W A | | | biography
[ lives & works - Lagos, Nigeria ::: b. 1987 – Onitsha, Nigeria ]
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.
"There’s an unmistakable air of confidence and self assuredness that radiates from the eyes of the muses, REWA masterfully captures on her canvases. Their gazes both invite you in like an old friend, yet still intimidate enough to keep you at bay, in the knowledge that the viewer is not entirely worthy of their presence.
Regality is the phrase best used to describe REWA’s work. Not in the gaudy sense that imposes its will, or shines so brightly one is forced to turn away. But in the quiet, subdued manner that commands respect and holds your attention effortlessly.
REWA’s bold figurative portraits are by all accounts an extension of the artist herself. A melting pot of varying influences, cultures, and experiences that have shaped and moulded a person that is as comfortable haggling the price of lace fabric in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Onitsha market, as they are blitzing through the high end boutiques of London and Paris.
Born and raised between Nigeria and England, REWA’s hybrid upbringing greatly informs her work, and indeed perfectly depicts the sensation that is the modern ‘afropolitan’ woman. Forward thinking, progressive, uninhibited, and self-aware, yet still rooted, albeit loosely, in the expectations, duty and responsibility that tradition and ancient customs dictate.
In REWA’s case, that tradition and ancient custom is that of the Igbo people of South-East Nigeria, who are often described as Nigeria’s most industrious and enterprising, as well as their most independent of thought and practice. The ancient value system and custom of the Igbo people and their fierce independence is evidenced in the themes REWA unpacks in her portraits, seen through a contemporary lens. Essential themes such as the importance of coming of age, engagement, marriage and playing one’s part in their community and Igbo society at large are fundamental to REWA, and seamlessly blend the old with the modern; adapted, but never compromised to suit the times.
What stands REWA apart from most contemporary artists today, is that she transcends the title of artist, and is all but in name, a historian, and chronicler of the evolution of her ethnic group, nation and continent in real time. Through her work, we witness firsthand the assertion and confidence of women; their ability to code switch, and dip effortlessly between the West and the African continent whilst retaining their essence, and above all else the liberty of having options, and not being restricted by the confines of patriarchy and perpetually subject to the male gaze as art history is all too often guilty of.
Beyond being aesthetically captivating, REWA’s work is intellectually stimulating, thought provoking and educational. Although working through the medium of acrylic paints, it is well within reason and justified to liken the importance of her practise to that of fellow compatriots and creative greats, Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozie Ndichie, whose work, like REWA’s has put an illuminating spotlight on both past and contemporary Nigerian society; its inhabitants and their worldview."
- Raphael Dapaah - Art writer, consultant & contributor |Dapaah Gallery |Polo Lifestyles Magazine
Viewers largely label me under “Contemporary African Art”. I label my work as Igbo Vernacular Art. The reason for this is that I believe that I have created a truly original body of work that exists outside formal academic or Western dialogue. My art is drawn from life itself and deeply anchored in a place and culture from which it was derived. This is the Igbo culture pertaining to the Igbos of Nigeria. I think that this description is more accurate as it implies a unique iteration of customs and tradition, bound to a particular location and a particular people.
Igbo Vernacular Art is not to be mistaken with Folk Art, but rather, concerns itself with an expressive aesthetic that would be more commonly associated with Contemporary of Modern Art; form, composition and narrative. Vernacular dialects are anchored to a particular land, and in much the same way, my art contains a vocabulary that is built on a strong sense of place and is situated in a location and a history.
It is my hope that one day, my work will be included in art historical dialogue about Africa and specifically Nigeria, beyond the confines of the wide-reaching Contemporary African Art designation.
2016 Gordon Institute of Business (GIBS), South Africa
The Business of Africa module; Johannesburg, Lagos & Nairobi immersion
2016 Duke Corporate Education, Duke University
Experiential Learning; Design Innovation & Leading Change
2009 University College London (UCL)
B.Sc. (Combined Honors) Physiology & Pharmacology (obtained 2.1)
2006 William Morris Academy
3 A-Levels in Biology (A); Chemistry (A); English Language & Literature (A)
AS-Level in Psychology (A)
2023 All Roads Led Here, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA
2022 Pink Party, Band of Vices Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2021 I’je awel’le: A Beautiful Journey, A Safe Journey, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA
2019 Nwa Agbo: Entering Adolescence, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, LA
2022 Afropolitans, REWA + Boris Anjel, Out of Africa Gallery, Barcelona, Spain
2022 Ladies of Leisure, REWA + Megan Gabrielle Harris, DeBuck Gallery, New York, USA
2021 Emancipation + Liberation, REWA + Oluwole Omofemi, Out Of Africa Gallery, Barcelona, Spain
2022 Africa Rises in the Fall, Out of Africa Gallery, London, UK
2021 Mescaline - C11H17NO3, Band of Vices Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2021 The Shape Of The New, CasildART & ArtCan, Virtual Exhibition
2021 Deus Ex Femina, Art Dubai + AKKA Project, Dubai, UAE
2021 The Truth About Me, ArtLeadHer, Urban Zen Gallery, New York, USA
2021 Addicted to Africa, Artsy + Out Of Africa Gallery, Barcelona, Spain
2021 In The Midst Of All That Is, Band Of Vices Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2020 Inspiration in Isolation, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, USA
2020 Kwetu: A Celebration of Black Art, London.gov.uk (virtual exhibition)
2020 ReLe Gallery Young Contemporaries Alumni Exhibition, Nigerian National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria
2019 Identity Measures, Contemporary Art Centre New Orleans (CACNO), New Orleans, USA
2018 No Dead Artists | inu nwunye: Bride Price, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, USA
2019 Back to the Future: Still Here Tomorrow to High Five You Yesterday, Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa
2018 Summer Art Fair, The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA), London, United Kingdom
2017 Annual Masquerade Ball - Group Exhibition & Auction, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), New York, U.S.A.
2017 Her Story: Sisterhood That Transcends, The Gallery of African Art (GAFRA), London, United Kingdom
2017 ReLe Young Contemporaries 2017 Exhibition, ReLe Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria
2017 Eko Art Expo, Eko Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria
2023 RMB Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa
2023 Art Market San Francisco, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, USA
2022 Scope Miami, South Beach, Miami, USA, Out of Africa Gallery, Barcelona, Spain
2022 Art Miami, South Beach, Miami, USA, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans, USA
2022 Art Expo Chicago, DeBuck Gallery Booth, Chicago, USA
2022 Art Market San Francisco, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery Booth San Francisco, USA
2022 Art Miami, Miami, USA, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery Booth
2020 Art Miami, Miami, USA, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery Booth
2020 Art Dubai, Dubai, UAE, ReLe Gallery Booth
NOTABLE PROJECTS & FEATURES
2023 All The Single Ladies, The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Q1
2022 Black-ish Television Series | Season 8 Finale Episode Artwork Feature, American Broadcasting Company (ABC Network)
2022 Law & Order: Organized Crime Television Series, Episode Artwork Feature Universal Television
2021 Burnett x REWA Collaboration, Burnett New York
2019 Nike Women’s World Cup, “Don’t Change Your Dream. Change The World”, Nike
2019 Vaseline Showcase, 2019 Essence Festival, Unilever
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
2023 Top 100 Women Impacting Africa, The Women International (WIN) Nigeria
2022 Pigment Magazine, Best Cover Design Featuring “Somoto in Pink Jeans” by Rewa, Eddie & Ozzie Awards, USA
2022 Eko 100 Woman, Unending Commitment To A More Equal And Equitable World, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Nigeria
2017 Woman Of The Year Awards, Nominee, Art Category, Her Network, Nigeria
2023 NBC Rising Women Africa: Women Making Leadership Strides, NBC Network
2022 Breaking The Bias, Business Day Nigeria
2022 MOYA: Planetary Blackness, Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equality
2021 Pigment Magazine Cover Feature, Pigment International Magazine
2021 African Artists Playing With Fashion, Latitudes
2021 Band Of Vices Launches Immersive Group Exhibition Featuring More Than 26 Artists, Complex Magazine
2021 Dress Codes: A Celebration Of Biwoc* Artists, Collectible Dry
2021 Portraits Of Women From Two Nigerian Perspectives: REWA And Oluwole Omofemi, Wiriko Magazine
2021 Inside Donna Karan’s New Art Exhibition, A Celebration Of Identity, W Magazine
2021 Bold Figurative Portraits From The Afropolitan REWA, Polo Lifestyles Magazine
2021 IGBO VERNACULAR ARTIST REWA, Visionary Art Collective
2020 5 MINUTES WITH REWA UDOJI, ThisDay Style
2020 IGBO VERCULAR ART BY REWA, Create! Magazine
2020 Visual Artist REWA Provides A Perspective On Art And Life, Occhi Magazine
2020 REWA’s Bold & Luminous Portraits, Polo Lifestyles Magazine
2020 NIGERIAN ARTIST REWA ON HER CORRELATION BETWEEN LAGOS, LONDON AND JHB, 10and5.com
2020 WHO IS REWA?, Deshabile Magazine
2019 QUESTIONS FOR REWA, Stories Collective
2019 REWA, Coseffect Magazine
2019 CLAN: THE POWER WOMAN CAMPAIGN, CLAN
2019 Showcasing Rising African Artist | REWA, African Art Wave
2018 The Graduating Class Of Young Contemporaries, The Guardian Newspaper
2017 Stunning Visual Ode To Womanhood At The Gallery Of African Art, Obatala
2017 Her Story: Sisterhood That Transcends At Gallery Of African Art, The Glowing Colours
2017 Instagram Feature, CNN Africa
2017 Women-Inspired Art By REWA, The Spark.ng