Catalogue "Smiling and Suffering"

Arte por excelencias, June 3, 2022


Matthew Eguavoen questions the enduring affects of mental and physical slavery on the ordinary Nigerian citizen, who despite living in a free and sovereign nation, still live their lives as though they are slaves on a 18th century North American plantation, bowing without question or hesitation to the powers that be.

His portraits, hauntingly beautiful and striking, belie a deeper pain and an inaudible cry for help, which the lingering gaze of his muses allude to. Despite this, Matthew maintains that his subjects remain defiant in the face of their oppression, and despite the odds stacked against them, they have not yet been defeated, or resigned to a fate of misery and pity; their resilience and determination is steadfast.


Daniel Onguene's bold, harsh portraits are an unapologetic depiction and reference to what the artist's views as the dire plight of the socio economic conditions of his native Cameroon. Chaotic at best, and apocalyptic at its worse, the dreary greys and the moody and muted palette of his pieces' backgrounds speaks directly to a bleak situation of urban decay and languish, which has been brought about by economic mismanagement, corruption, and lack of empathy for the working people, resulting in the informal sector or black economy becoming the main epicentre of commerce and trade.

In spite of this, the most obvious point in Onguene's work is that his subjects are still managing, and in some cases possibly even thriving, in these circumstances. The welcome pop of warm, vibrants colours, and in some portraits, the smiles of his subjects, is indicative of an optimism, courage and hope that offers a promising counter narrative to the current state of turmoil and decline.


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