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Celebrate Black History Month with African fabrics and visual stories

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 October 2016

Flo Awolaja is exhibiting with Making Stories Telling Tales for Black History Month at the Park Theatre

Flo Awolaja is exhibiting with Making Stories Telling Tales for Black History Month at the Park Theatre

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Flo Awolaja is exhibiting with Making Stories Telling Tales during Black History Month at the Park Theatre

A new art exhibition celebrating Black History Month is on display in Finsbury Park’s Park Theatre.

Flo Awolaja’s Making Stories Telling Tales is an expression of freedom from oppressors.

Awolaja’s body of work is inspired by “the journey of our ancestors from the shores of Afrika” stretching to include the role of the UK and the birth of the Commonwealth as appropriation of the wealth of other continents. It also focuses on the spirit of self-determination that arose, “prioritising the direction, place and standing of us as black people in the world”.

Born to parents of Nigerian heritage, Awolaja attributes her work to the culture into which she was born, growing up surrounded by the vibrant colours of her mother’s collection of African fabrics.

She has been inspired by a range of people, citing a number of influential black artists including contemporary Nigerian artist Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye and African-American graphic artist and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett.

She says that taking a new direction in printmaking is “testament to my artistic and cultural eclecticism”. And eclectic is certainly an appropriate word given the range of her influences, also including Egon Shiele, Gerhart Richter and Joan Mitchell.

“My use of fabrics creates abstract compositions,” says Awolaja, “that hark back to West-African traditions of using textiles as a means of commemoration and communication, taking them and placing them in a contemporary setting.”

This exhibition is a vibrant celebration reminding us that narrative is not always verbal, and to appreciate the contribution of African and Caribbean communities around the world.

“As much as they demanded we assimilate and forget ourselves, we chose not to accommodate. Instead, we have maintained many of our traditions and managed to retain a sense of self.”

Flo Awolaja’s Making Stories Telling Tales runs through the Park Theatre’s circle, stalls and mezzanine corridors until November 27.

All works are for sale by the artist. parktheatre.co.uk

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