REWA is a woman we can all identify with. If not directly with her, we can all find a piece of our souls in the identities depicted in her creations. Her subject matter is WOMAN – celebrated in all forms.
A self-taught artist, her works are breathtaking and picturesque. Each painting reflecting life-like essence of beauty and strength of women. REWA has mentioned that for her, “art creation is synonymous with catharsis and my creations are my life’s diary.”
Her most recent collection, ONICHA ADO N’IDU – Naming Rites & Traditions of the Igbos of Nigeria, was well received by the public – it was exhibited in The Gallery of African Art, London.
In the words of REWA, “there is no more powerful female entity than a Goddess and there is no continent more magical than Africa.” These words were extremely powerful to me and drew me to her, not only as an artist, but as an inspirational lady cultivating a beautiful movement.
I got a chance to speak with REWA and find out more about her and her works.
Mary: Home for you is in-between Lagos, London and Johannesburg – how has this influenced your collections?
REWA: This interstitial lifestyle has influenced my work massively; so much so that my collection shown at ReLe Gallery was called The Travellers. Using a triptych representation of self, the collection reflected my relocation from London to Lagos to Johannesburg and back to Lagos. I personified globalisation and surmounted the national immigration boundaries via ownership of two passports and a work permit. This was the easiest part. What was unanticipated were the psychological boundaries, challenges and life lessons that would arise from these terrestrial shifts.
London represented societal boundaries. This boundary was a cobweb, made soft by the government dogmas of social mobility, made malleable by the corporate policies of “diversity in the workplace” and through whose interstices of meritocracy, could the prizes of the much-lauded homeownership and a guaranteed pension be seen. Yet, this cobweb was grey like its proprietor city and remained grey due to my inability to fully assimilate with the notion of Sunday roasts, Received Pronunciation and “fancying a pint”.
Johannesburg represented racial boundaries. This boundary was a cuff, made rusty by the political doctrines of black empowerment, made suffocating by the ignorance of the denizens of that racial melting pot and through its very nature as a cuff, was ugly. This cuff, on a personal level, took my spirit to depths of solitude and powerlessness that I never thought were attainable for me.
Lagos represented cultural boundaries. This boundary was a calabash, made unbreakable by its unyielding shell of generational acceptance, made hollow by the incomprehensibility of tribalism and through whose sheer utility, could the importance of personal restitution be seen. This calabash was decorative and beautiful like its proprietor city and remains so, for my spirit, to this day.
Mary: How do you manage a career in the insurance industry and your life as an artist? Do you ever feel the pressure of your business career impede on your creativity?
REWA: I am no longer in the Insurance industry; I moved into the Private Equity/Asset Management space so all still within the same Financial Services / Corporate realm. It has been quite a struggle I must admit, especially in the run up to exhibitions – creating presentations / liaising with investors by day and painting by night (with the aid of a rechargeable fluorescent lamp because the lighting in hotel rooms is appalling!). With all that being said, my corporate career has served to propel my creativity – painting is a form of catharsis for me. I have come to rely on it heavily as an outlet; following a hectic day of numbers and presentations, I relish nothing more than unburdening my mind unto canvas.
Mary: What was it that drew your spirit and your works to the celebration of the female?
REWA: I have so many adjectives I can attach to women and the female form – beautiful, potent, surreal – to name a few. Women give birth to life, women are society’s vertebrae – how can anyone not be inspired by WOMAN? I find so much beauty in women that I come across, in their eyes, their cheekbones, their chi. My spiritual anchors are all women (my husband being the only exception); my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, my closest friends. My first private collection, The Pantheon (The Goddesses), fortified me; they saw me through at a time that I needed it most. My second collection, The Travellers, saw me safely back home. The women who comprised my third collection, Onicha Ado N’Idu, these women have mended, enriched and succoured me throughout they various stages of my life; they have made me whole. I want my audience, whether male or female, to look at one of my women and be able to identify with her story and the meaning behind her name. I want her to represent a message, a memory, a story or a prayer for the viewer.
Images from artbyrewa.com
Mary: Where do you see yourself going next in your creative journey – will the female continue to be the subject matter of your content?
REWA: I am currently working on a new body of work and it’s all very exciting! The female form will continue to be the subject matter but now my women will move away from portraiture and go on journeys of their own; I will begin scene-setting and will encompass the entire form of my subject. This collection will be based on the Igbo tradition of Inu-Nwunye, Bride Price. Inu Nwunye will showcase a maiden’s passage from Inyo-Uno, the introduction ceremony, all the way through to Inu-Mmanya, the palm wine carrying (marriage) ceremony. I can’t say much more about it but watch this space!
Mary: As a woman who celebrates other women, what key advice would you give to women who are striving to be the best in their careers and or creative works?
1. Whatever it is that you want to pursue, just start.
2. This one is a cliche but here goes: Life is too, too short. Knowing this then, why not run at her full throttle and be the best expression of yourself you can possibly be? Whilst you’re at it, do not allow yourself to be intimidated by anyone or anything, run your race in your own time and stay true to your intrinsic vision / passion. I promise you, the universe will begin to bend to the will of your chi once you start to pursue your goals with full force.
3. JUST START!
Mary: Tell us one fact about you that isn’t widely known by the public?
REWA: I am REWA. My name is of native Maori origin, pronounced Ree-Wah. My name means Happiness.
Many disfigure me into Reh-Wah with brazen insistence that I have shortened my name, that I must be called Omoh-Reh-Wah, meaning beauty in Yoruba. But Reh-Wah is not my name.
Some distort me into Ruwuh with ignorant insistence that I must alter the spelling to Ri-Wa in order to be called Rewa. But Ri-Wa is not my name.
Others deform me into Ray-Wah with irksome insistence that Ray-Wah, for their phonetic comfort, is surely what it must be. But Ray-Wah is not my name.