Ekene Emeka-Maduka

Reconstructing identity, heritage and femininity in surreal self portraits.

Looking down on Ekene Maduka stood holding a tondo painting in an outdoors car park
Ekene Maduka wearing a white dress and smiling as she holds up a tondo portrait painting
artist rolling up a large piece of paper with a painting on it
6 images

Ekene Emeka-Maduka, born 1996, was raised in Kano, Nigeria, before moving to Canada as a student. She now lives and works in Winnipeg.

Accolades

In 2018, the artist received highly sought-after sponsorship from The Dean Collection, an organisation founded by Swizz Beats and Alicia Keys.

Did you know?

While primarily a painter, upon close inspection many of Maduka's works include mixed-media elements, such as vibrant wax-printed fabrics which call to her Nigerian heritage.

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Practice overview

Oil portraits by Ekene Maduka narrate stories of heritage, femininity and Blackness. Dedicated to what she calls “the study of the self,” Maduka’s compositions present repeated versions of her own image, as well as friends and family in domestic settings. Thus the works emphasise the performativity of identity and also how selfhood is intrinsically tied to those around us. Home, memory and displacement are all key themes throughout. Predominantly painting onto stretched canvas and wooden panels, the artist incorporates bright fabrics into the compositions and lifts styles like the ‘gele’ from her Nigerian heritage. By entwining elements of her cultural identity with references to artists like Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, —Maduka elaborates on legacies of portraiture through the prism of her own experiences.

Throughout her practice, Maduka toys with classical tropes of the female nude. Look it’s Just Blood (2018) is a self-portrait of the artist dressed in blood-stained underwear, bent over a pile of clothes next to the washing machine — a familiar scene to most people who menstruate. Although her back is turned, Maduka’s head is angled definitely towards the audience, subverting the submissive portrayal of the 19th Century Odalisque femme. Additionally, in a satirical response to the commodification of feminism and the feminine body, she holds a Dior t-shirt emblazoned “We should all be feminists.” Constantly reconfiguring power and its relationship to the painted figure, Maduka celebrates identity as abundant and manifold.

“I don’t make my work fearing what people might think.”Ekene Emeka Maduka