Art has drawn more attention to the African continent bringing forth a diversity of cultures. This has created visibility for African cultures and allowed them to narrate their own stories. Artiste Culture had the opportunity to speak to gallerist Vincent Ugokwe, who has been a part of the movement to bring ‘Africa to the World' through art and create a space for African artists to gain recognition for their talent.
Vincent believes that there are many eyes on the African creative space and it will allow them to redefine the way people engage with the continent. The gallerist believes that Africans in the art space should steer the course of the ship in the right way for future generations. He also noticed that there had been minimal African representation at the range of art fairs he attended. He found that African art was often presented in galleries or by people who were not of African descent.
“There comes a time that if you don’t tell your story, others will tell it for you and you may not like how it comes.”- Vincent Ugokwe
Vincent felt it was vital for him to play a role in promoting African culture and helping artists tell their stories authentically. Through Dozie Arts he has been able to realise this dream.
Vincent had a unique entry into the art world. He required extra credits while studying at university and decided to take an art module. Through this, he grew an interest in art and identified that there was a lack of African representation in the art world. In 2017, he visited his home in Nigeria and fell in love with the art he saw. He bought art and visited galleries with the aim to begin building a network in the African art world. He formed connections with art collectors and artists, and later that year Dozie Arts were founded.
Dozie Arts is an online gallery and shop for contemporary African art. The online shop offers up paintings and sculptures from a diverse range of African artists giving them a platform to sell their work on a larger scale and at an international level. They also host pop-up shows and partner up with galleries in New York City.
Vincent curated Joseph Eze’s exhibition titled ‘Atiti’ which explored many complex topics. ‘Atiti’ means ‘waste’ in the Igbo language and in his pieces, Eze incorporated various waste materials such as discarded magazines, newspapers, bar codes from drink cans and plastic flip-flops. The primary theme explored was the darkness and despair of waste which was linked to stories of those trapped and discarded at the bottom of social, economic and technological structures. Through his work, Vincent has contributed to the education of the African experience in the modern world in an empowering but honest way.
This is further seen through the artists he represents and the themes they explore in their art which include the influence of the west on Africa as well as African culture in its most authentic state. Artists Joseph Eze, Ademola Ojo and Obi Raphaels are among the several artists he represents.
Joseph Eze incorporates traditional African culture with the Victorian era. He mixes the contemporary and the traditional way of life of African people and also celebrates traditional African hairstyles in his works. Ademola Ojo’s works discuss black identity while raising conversation on the result of colonization. Obi Raphaels' work focuses on African traditions. Celebrating African women and their cultural rituals.
When looking for an artist to represent there are various qualities he considers. Ugokwe specialises in contemporary African art and loves when artists represent their culture while blending modern and traditional ways of life, as can be seen in Joseph Eze’s work. He values authenticity as well as style and delivery. When working with artists he appreciates a sense of professionalism such as the artist has set goals and aims to build a lasting brand.
This month Vincent has a group show with the theme ‘Art from the Motherland’ featuring 10 African artists. He has set his sights on improving African representation throughout the art world whether it be at auction houses or art shows. His hope is to one day own a gallery that will be known as a landmark for African art. He hopes that in the future African artists will get their piece of the pie and be fully compensated for their work. The gallerist also aims to create a foundation in which Dozie Arts can give back by providing materials such as brushes and paints to support African artists who don’t have access to these resources. Vincent’s work with Dozie Arts has only just begun and as he expands there will be more African artists who will be given the chance to shine and share their talent with the world.