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          Good Luck Totem, 2024 - Oluseye - Daniel Faria - Black Exodus: Winter Arrival
          Editorial
          Oluseye’s solo exhibition 'Black Exodus: Winter Arrival' now showing at Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto

          29 Feb 2024 (5 min) read

          Following on from his debut solo with Southern Guild Black Exodus: Summer Departure (November 2023), artist Oluseye’s Black Exodus: Winter Arrival is currently on show at Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto until 6 April 2024.

          This is Oluseye’s first major solo exhibition in the city and is a culmination of work made peripatetically over the past five years. Using diasporic debris—a term Oluseye coined to describe the artifacts and found objects collected during his travels—he explores Black being across themes. These transformational objects are recast into sculpture, installation, performance, and photography, their explorations invoking his lived experience within a broader examination of Black Diasporic identity, African spiritual traditions and popular culture.

          Oluseye’s ongoing series of sculptures, Eminado (the Yoruba word for good luck charm), are re-imaginations of the talismans carried by Africans—past and present—on journeys across the Atlantic. Their materials include electrical sockets, combs, bicycle pedals, rubber debris, hair and cowrie shells. Small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand, they serve as reminders of home, offering hope and protection at a time of uncertainty and new beginnings.

          The works in this exhibition are a celebration of African ingenuity; they are homages to the skills of the artisans—hair braiders, vulcanizers, cobblers, basket weavers, and welders—from whom Oluseye learned while traveling on the continent. As with his travels, each material, method and object exists in dialogue with a much larger story, extending beyond Oluseye as an individual into that which lies beyond his grasp: the past, the future, the mythic, and the spiritual.

          BLACK EXODUS: WINTER ARRIVAL - Oluseye - Daniel Faria Gallery Toronto 2024
          BLACK EXODUS: WINTER ARRIVAL - Oluseye - Daniel Faria Gallery Toronto 2024
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          Exhibition Text by Ezi Odozor

          And now we come to the arrival; to a point of revelation where we encounter what has returned, reshaped by time and experience. Blackness boarded, left, arrived, and transformed. It maintained and mutated, resisting and re-existing, forming new ways of being and knowing, which not only transmuted itself, but also reshaped the world. In Oluseye’s BLACK EXODUS: WINTER ARRIVAL these contestations, reworkings, and triumphs are given form.

          The Wasp is situated as a representation of that journeying, but its shape rebukes a single temporal direction, honouring both Black futures and Black pasts. It takes its name from a slave ship that was built in Newfoundland in 1773, but its form honours African histories, borrowing the curvature of the calabash and the construction of mud huts. Formed as a spaceship, it asks, “What if?” What if those who boarded the Wasp in Calabar bound for enslavement in St. Kitts, could have transformed their mud huts into spaceships and flown away to safety? The work imagines what Oluseye calls a “spiritual technology,” inviting us to participate in a speculative future and past. This work also unfixes the notion of home, intertwining it with safety beyond place. A hyphenate himself, Nigerian-Canadian Oluseye links the ship and his own identity, navigating notions of belonging, lineages, and homecoming.

          In WINTER ARRIVAL movement is a constant theme. Whether it be physical, through the shift of ideas, or through resistance. In The Value of My Dreams Will Not Drown Me, Oluseye arranges the cowries as if cast as part of a Merindinlogun, a Yoruba divination ritual. In the practice, which was brought to Cuba and Brazil through the slave trade, cowries are thrown and, guided by the Orishas, the faithful read the patterns revealing new answers to their questions. Thus, through this work, Oluseye not only historicizes the movement of Black spiritual practices locating shared ancestries, but also returns to the heart of the work: a resistance to definition by external elements.

          Resistance is both an anthesis of movement and an instigator of it. It is the cessation of action and the generation of a response and therefore a result. This theme of resistance as cessation and generation also emerges in Mighty Peter and in Muhammad Had a Dream. In Mighty Peter, the well-known image of Whipped Peter is transformed into a kind of Nkisi Nkondi, his scars are covered with iron nails, imbuing the figure with the defiance of the Congolese totems and the fortification of the Yoruba god of iron, Ogun. Winter arrivals were times of hardship; here the figure stands to embolden the spirit even when the body begins to fail. Likewise, in Muhammad Had a Dream the rubber arms, comprised of materials collected across Africa, attest to the generative power of a united Africa, while the gloves stand in for the great Muhammad Ali, whose Pan-Africanist ideals spurred him on as a resister. Both pieces are emblems of collective resistance, acknowledging both African spiritual collectivity and Pan-Africanist responses. They are also testaments to the generative capacity of Blackness and to the promise of existence beyond resistance. This is a quality we can also see in Woven Basket, wherein Oluseye weaves rubber collected from Black artisans and tradespeople in Canada, Kenya and the Ivory Coast, employing weaving techniques used throughout the diaspora. The amorphous shape is an ode to the adaptability and creativity of Blackness and Black peoples signaling not only resistance but the emergence of new techniques and ideas that have emerged through diaspora itself.

          Through BLACK EXODUS: WINTER ARRIVAL Oluseye navigates the inherent transformations that journeying brings, revealing shifts and difference, exploring what movement and change yield, troubling what home means in the shadow of elsewhere, and asking us where we go from here.

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          Also opening in March: To Echo a Shadow at NXTHVN, New Haven, Connecticut.

          Curated by NXTHVN 2023-2024 Curatorial Fellows Marquita Flowers and Clare Patrick, this group exhibition features work by Oluseye, Ash Arder, Torkwase Dyson and Lungiswa Gqunta.

          It examines how industrialisation has led to enforced migration and considers the reverberations of this movement as unfixed, responsive and ephemeral, like an echo and shadow. Through organic and manufactured materials, the artworks reveal the landscape as a holder and witness of history, engendering multi-local forms of knowledge. Taken as a whole, the exhibition is an invitation to turn inwards; to move slowly and reflect on the materials of sound, soil, smoke, light, memory, movement and how they have shaped personal and collective experiences of migration.

          The exhibition runs from 9 March – 19 May 2024.