Kenechukwu Victor: Eziokwu (Undiluted Truths) Online Show @ Thierry Goldberg
Kenechukwu Victor approaches portraiture as an act of storytelling. Combining personal narratives and interpretations with elements of Nigerian culture, symbols, and idioms, the artist renders his subjects through an iconographic lens. This unique visual language is part of Victor’s ongoing pursuit of the truth, revealing the complex relationship between our interior worlds and the external environments that we inhabit.
Each of Victor’s portraits is adorned with the same signature look: titanium white hair and lips. This striking feature is a reference to “Nzu”, a type of calabash chalk that is used for a variety of religious, medicinal, and recreational purposes across West Africa. Victor incorporates Nzu as a way to imbue his subjects with wisdom, peace, and purity; what the artist describes as a “seal of truth”. Placed against blank or ornamental backgrounds – a yellow brick wall, a black and white tiled floor, an overgrown fence – the figures gaze directly back at the viewer, claiming agency over their stories.
The works presented in Eziokwu (Undiluted Truths) are centered around motherhood and the many women that have influenced Victor’s life and practice. In Lovelyn’s Testament (2021), Lovelyn’s Testament II (2021), and In My Heart and Everywhere (2021), the artist depicts these women in a domestic setting; while in Lady with rabbit (2021), Lady with sheep (2021), and La Devotee (2021), he places them outdoors, surrounded by flora and fauna. Victor thereby invokes the nurturing qualities and tropes associated with femininity, while speaking to the strength, resilience, and hard work that are all too often overlooked. Throughout the exhibition, we also find the recurring mark of a curved line and two dashes. This ancient symbol for motherhood is part of a system of ideographic writing, known as Nsibidi, used by indigenous tribes in southeastern Nigeria. Victor’s portraits thus act as a form of documentation, highlighting the relationships, histories, and traditions that bridge one generation to the next.
Kenechukwu Victor (b. 1995, Kaduna, Nigeria) lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a self-taught artist, and holds a BA in Engineering from Madonna University in Akpugo, Nigeria.