Art Basel Miami 2023: 'An Attempt At Rest' - Ndidi Emefiele

Miami Beach Convention Center 1901 Convention Center Drive Miami Beach, FL 33139, 8 - 10 December 2023 
Nova Booth N3 Friday - Sunday, 11am to 6pm

For Art Basel Miami Beach 2023, Rele Gallery will present a solo presentation of a new body of work titled An attempt at rest by UK-based Nigerian artist Ndidi Emefiele

Primarily concerned with the notion of the Black woman at rest, the series presents layered scenes of relaxation and idleness in contrast to misogynist systems that allow for the exploitation and undervaluation of the work of women. Emefiele draws from her experiences growing up in Nigeria, in an environment where girls and women are overworked and held to higher standards than their male counterparts. From the intimacy of the home to the public sphere of the industrial and corporate world, the artist problematizes existing structures that require women to work twice as hard to get ahead. She highlights the constant demands, heavy labor and repressive policing that is enforced on Black women’s bodies. As a response and resistance to these oppressive structures, Emefiele considers notions of rest and idleness as promotive of a restorative, regenerative space free of demands, biases and expectations. 

In these paintings, she presents abstract and figurative scenes that embody states of inactivity and leisure; from a messy bedroom to a self-watering garden. These visual spaces become an invitation into moments of respite and enjoyment. The enjoyment of women is central to Emefiele’s work. Her vivid canvases are populated by stylized bodies of Black women engaging in fun, leisurely activities. The mundaneness of the actions and scenes grounds the idea of rest in the intimate and commonplace. The female body is allowed to simply exist — even if for a moment — and be cared for. Here, the artist presents a deliberate break from labor and exhaustion as a viable option and not just a phenomenon to dream about. An attempt at rest centers the need for a period of guilt-free idleness and care, particularly within Nigerian and African societies, where women are engaged in the ongoing transformative work of dismantling patriarchal structures and charting new narratives.


Ndidi Emefiele

Ndidi Emefiele (b.1987) lives and works in North Hampton, UK. Drawing on cultural, gendered and personal references, Ndidi Emefiele creates layered figurative compositions that, dynamic in brush stroke and in juxtaposition of colour, conjure the complexity of contemporary experience and female identity. Emerging out of the Nigerian panorama, the strength of her narrative becomes even more pronounced as she encompasses collage, textiles and traditional materials conveying a strong sense of cultural heritage and aesthetics inspired by her homeland.

Ndidi Emefiele’s incredibly vivid canvases embrace a vision of women as strong, vibrant, self-confident characters who exist in relation to each other in a universe where the male is only noticed by his total absence. Her assertive figures make no attempt to fulfill male expectations. The depiction of enlarged heads which are traditionally said to control and predict one’s destiny, and the use of extravagant glasses or CD’s, become a recurring element objectifying the need for a shield against the world.

Emefiele has exhibited widely both internationally and in the UK including solo/group presentations in Miami, New York, London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Lagos, Johannesburg and Abuja. Emefiele forms part of private collections such as The Deighton Collection, the Beth DeWoody collection and The Jimenez - Colon Collection. Public collections include: The Mint Museum, The Nigerian Stock Exchange, Lagos, Nigeria and The University Of South Africa, Cape Town. Importantly, she was awarded with the prestigious 'The Olive Prize 2016' (Excellence In Painting, The Slade School Of Fine Art). Emefiele was among the nominees of The Future Awards Africa for Arts & Culture.

Emefiele presented her works at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg from 2022 - 2023. Her works were also showcased at the Art Encounters Contemporary Art Biennial in Timisoara, Romania and Christie's London. Other exhibitions include MoCADA, New York; The Perimeter, London; The Charles H. Wright Museum, Detroit and The Taubman Museum of Art, Virginia as part of the exhibition Reclamation! Pan-African Works from the Beth