Stanley Picker Gallery is pleased to announce Yemi Awosile’s first solo exhibition, Orishirishi. Appointed Stanley Picker Design Fellow in 2015, Awosile has developed a new body of research that casts a lens on the insatiable desire to maintain a sense of place and ownership over one’s identity through outward public personas. The title of the show is a Nigerian (Yoruba) word taken from Awosile’s family tribe’s vocabulary, loosely meaning ‘an assortment of different things’. Her new collection of textiles classifies materials as an arrangement of experiences and comprises of both fabrics and, for the first time, garments created through the combination of various techniques, such as multi-media printing and acoustic textiles.
Responding to the architectural layout of the Gallery, Awosile stages a very specific moment of the experience of a clothes shop by introducing a series of changing rooms accompanied by large mirrors, a seating area with African fashion magazines, and furniture pieces displaying clothing and blocks made of iroko – a large hardwood tree from the west coast of Africa that can live up to 500 years and is believed to have supernatural properties – employed by the artist to block-print patterns. As socially-coded, designated areas for changing one’s clothes away from other people’s eyes, dressing rooms provide opportunities for engaging with and and styling one’s public image in private; changing persona through choices of clothing.
Reflecting on fashion, textiles and the built environment, Orishirishi looks at unexpected parallels between different social groups. Interested in the social implications of cross-cultural identities, during her Fellowship research Awosile travelled to Delhi to work with a group of young people and Indian artist Aastha Chauhan from Khirkee – an urban village within the larger metropolis, whose community is built around enterprising ventures and a culturally fluid neighbourhood. In amongst the cheap homes and a multitude of Indian migrate workers, a large African community resides and a new sub-culture is emerging based on a rich fusion of African and Indian influences. Awosile ran a number of workshops with Chauhan and activities to help the young people elaborate an identity for their music band Khirkee17 and design their logos, prints and branded merchandise. In exchange, the boys, who spoke a little bit of English, guided Awosile through the challenges of being new to Delhi and not speaking Hindi, and helped her gather research material, including sound recordings which are played as soundscapes through the acoustic textiles.
Awosile’s work highlights unexpected, cross-cultural parallels and builds an enquiry into the migratory movement of people. Working with textiles becomes instrumental in understanding the social significance of clothing as a tool for building and expressing collective narratives. In both Indian and Nigerian cultures, print is a primary medium to facilitate storytelling through image and process. Over the past months Awosile experimented with and subverted traditional Indian and Nigerian block-printing techniques to create new patterns that play with historical and contemporary representations in popular culture.
Historically, it was far easier to identify a piece of textile by region, on the basis of pattern or techniques applied. This custom sits in sharp contrast with today’s large scale, industrial productions of clothing, whereby it is hardly possible to determine roots and cultural identity of any given material. As we live in a world where the notion of ‘Made in’ becomes increasingly blurred, Orishirishi raises questions on what impact this process might have on how people create and perceive their own identity within society.
During the course of the exhibition, Khirkee17 merchandise will be available to purchase in support of their future activities.
Yemi Awosile is a multi-disciplinary designer living and working in London. Her work is informed by cultural insights expressed primarily through textiles and printed matter. The broader scope of her practice bridges design and visual arts through social interventions. Recent projects include collaborations with Tent Rotterdam, Tate Gallery and Contemporary And (C&) magazine. She trained as a textile designer at the Royal College of Art and Chelsea College of Art. She is a visiting tutor at Loughborough University and Chelsea College of Art.