Grappling with ideas around gender, cultural heritage and race, Nengi Omuku’s practice explores the complexities of identity, focusing on interior psychological spaces and how they manifest within the physical world. Rendered in oil paint on strips of sanyan – a traditional Nigerian fabric used for draped clothing – Omuku creates ethereal scenes of figures in constant flux, interacting with one another and the landscape around them. Inspired by both archival and current images taken from the Nigerian press and media, she creates worlds in which the distinction between bodies and nature is often blurred, reflecting on the intricacies around navigating place and belonging. 

 

The spectral figures in her works have their faces deliberately obscured; silent observers whose gaze penetrates out towards the viewer. Reflecting the fluctuation in her paintings between the figurative and abstract, they too resist singularity and instead look to embrace the collective experience, echoing the choruses in Greek theatre. Omuku’s interrogations of the ambiguous spaces in between is equally explored in her use of materials. Weaving together strips of sanyan, she often combines vintage textiles from different fabrics, creating an amalgamation of materials to which she then reverses and applies oil paint to the back. The dichotomy between the intricately woven and carefully designed materials combined with the fluidity of the oil paint, speaks to living between cultures whilst at the same time feeling deeply connected to her country of birth.