One of the most impactful things I’ve learned in the recent years has been the power of affirmation and speaking things into existence.

At the end of last year, I took some time out to think about the things I wanted to achieve this year. Being an optimist, I wrote down exhibit my work. I did’t know how I’d do this, but I knew I wanted it to happen.

In May, the wonderful Adeola Naomi Aderemi of Distinguished Diva contacted me about the opportunity to show my work in an exhibition she was curating and thus the journey to creating Ileke began.

Ileke was a conceptual project I planned on creating later this year but since the exhibition date was fast approaching, I had to bump it up my schedule and put everything together in May instead of late June as I had initially planned.

A few weeks later, Adeola Joined me in London to pose for Ileke and the weeks thereafter, I set to working on the final project which was exhibited from 16 – 23 June, 2019 as part of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival.

The day of the launch was incredible. It started off with an intimate healing yoga workshop by Adeola and then afterwards the doors were open for all to join us in celebration and view the work.

I learned a lot from this process, especially the details required during the installation process. It was a great learning experience and I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. Everyone was open, welcoming and friendly. It was a remarkable experience to have been welcomed by the community in Athens and to experience it all first hand. Enjoy some of the pictures from the launch below.

Athens, I’ll be back!

Here’s the context in which my work Ileke was exhibited in Athens by Adeola Naomi Aderemi:

Visibly Invisible the Exhibition: A Visual Celebration of Glorious Black Bodies.

This exhibition and corresponding programming seeks to explore the authenticity of what Blackness looks like in the Greek cultural context and LBGTQ+ curatorial practices in Athens and beyond.

When we talk about Blackness and Greekness there is still a notion of otherness. This exhibition offers to disrupt the gaze of whiteness and how that has historically shaped what is deemed acceptable for the idea of Greekness in intersections with Blackness and Queerness.

Before you are Black bodies in their nuanced complexity adorened in cultural Yoruba ileke (waistbeads), captured by the lens of a Black woman and curated by a Black Greek Queer woman, in their fluidity, grandeur and gentle vulnerability.

No explanation is offered or needed as to their humanity. The default assumption that Greek bodies and especially queer bodies are white eurocentric does not apply here.

Ileke in the Yoruba pantheon spiritual heritage and culture are worn for healing in ancient times, and present times  as a locally healing method which could be spiritual(protect from obsessive spirits) or physical( cramps, infertility).

This exhibition is a place of worship, reverence and celebration of Black bodies that are placed on altars of healing, joy, celebration and reverence. 

Ileke, Elizabeth Okoh’s first solo exhibition explores the complexity of Black bodies, especially of women of African heritage by illuminating their strength, power, sensuality and vulnerability.

Curated by Adeola Naomi Aderemi of Distinguished Diva

Photographed by Elizabeth Okoh