Stunning Portraits From Oluwatobi Adewumi Reconstruct Lost Histories of the African Diaspora
“I see and understand the world through people,” says portrait artist Oluwatobi Adewumi. “Their faces, expressions, and gazes allow me to represent the often overlooked faces of Black African immigrants across the diaspora.”
Raised in Nigeria, Oluwatobi—who goes by Tobi—moved to the States in 2016 for an artist residency in upstate New York. Now settled in Arkansas, the mostly self-taught artist creates stunning charcoal portraits that relay the story of his journey from one culture to another. “With every piece of art, I produce a story, an opportunity to provide history, a new voice and perspective for my audience,” says Tobi, who sees his work as a conduit for storytelling across different cultures and societies.
His own story echoes a larger narrative surrounding race, history, culture, immigration, and perspective. “History is a big part of my practice,” he says in an interview with The Arkansas Art Scene Blog. “Nigerian newspapers shaped my early knowledge about race and history, as well as stories from my grandparents. Those images were rich, powerful, and heroic.” Translating images from his mind’s eye onto canvas, Tobi reconstructs the lost history of the African diaspora with an eye toward tomorrow. “My practice engages in a critical commentary of the past to learn and unlearn how history shapes our understanding of the present and, in turn, impacts our perception of the future.”
Tobi brings that future to life in two recent bodies of work: Headlines, a series of collaged works that celebrate the resilience and fortitude of Black women; and Facialogue: Dialogue With the Faces, a charcoal-based series that explores traditional African hairstyles, clothing, tribal marks, and face painting. “The men and women who populate my works have been pushed to the second class,” Tobi muses. “However, they have stories—and a history society must acknowledge.”
New Book By Katie Love
From Cult To Comedy, A Memoir, by Katie Love
The year is 1970. The horror soap opera “Dark Shadows” is all the rage, the Vietnam War is raging and nine-year-old Katie, an imaginative and independent latch-key kid, comes home from school to discover her mother’s suicide.
Taken in by her older sister who has recently become a Jehovah’s Witness, Katie is shown an illustration from a bible picture book featuring wild animals peacefully lounging by a pool of water, surrounded by happy people picking fruit. An enticing offer is made: “Katie, this is Paradise. Do you want to see Mom again, happy and living forever? All you have to do is follow all of Jehovah’s commandments and you can be with Mom again.”
Mom happy and living forever? Two tickets to Paradise, please!
So begins Katie’s zealous quest to attain perfection and entrance into a utopian world which promises peace, love, and happiness. She discovers a much darker world. “Two Tickets to Paradise, from Cult to Comedy” tells the hilarious and heartbreaking story of an earnest, bible-toting kid intent on saving the world, and follows her metamorphosis into a boisterous comedian intent on saving herself through the healing powers of humor.
“I see and understand the world through people.” — Oluwatobi Adewumi
Oluwatobi Adewumi: Website | Instagram
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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