Kenny Maro: This Is Not Earth: Lagos

April 2, 2023 - May 6, 2023


Rele Gallery, Lagos is pleased to present This is not Earth, the debut solo exhibition of Kenneth ‘Kenny Maro’ Oghenemaro. In this body of work, the viewer is transported into strange, futuristic realms; one populated by luminous clouds, floodlights and superhero characters zipping by on hoverboards. While the exhibition title and painted scenes connote an otherworldliness often found in sci-fi movies and comic books, the works presented references the poor state of the electricity sector in Nigeria and the epileptic power supply experienced collectively across the country. 

Presenting work across painting, sound and installation, Oghenemaro creates ethereal worlds and objects alongside recognisable elements like powerlines and vegetation, conflating the strange with the familiar. Here, he is focused on generating hybrid bodies and landscapes visually charged with the pulsating energy of light and movement. 

In This is not Earth, three distinct series make up the core of the presentation. In ‘Uninterrupted’, the artist considers a suspended state of play and uncertainty brought on by power outages. Drawing from childhood experiences of playing games with rubber bands — represented by the glowing oval rings — during periods of blackouts, Oghenemaro alludes to a liminal state the body exists in while waiting for power to be restored. In ‘Light bringers’, helmeted figures emerge out of swirling clouds holding lightning bolts as they travel through the air on hoverboards. These figures in skin-tight spacesuits are imagined as superhero characters who by their possession of a light source, restore order and hope to a chaotic, darkened world. The ‘Vigilante’ series presents experimental representations of light, taking as a point of reference the torchlights and headlamps used by local vigilante groups in Nigeria. Here, light is considered a symbol and reinforcement of security and safety within communities.

Despite the strange, technological world we are ushered into, the landscapes we encounter are presented as welcoming and nurturing, capable of supporting organic growth. Amidst a long history of regular power failures and grid collapse, and coming on the heels of the Devolution of Powers bill — which grants Nigerian states the power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity to areas covered by the national grid —  Oghenemaro creates an escape into the imaginary. The exhibition ushers us into an alternate reality, one in which light-wielding figures rush through the skies to save the day.