Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze is a Brooklyn-based artist of Nigerian descent. She recently returned to the U.S. after completing a ten-month Fulbright fellowship at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is currently maintaining a studio practice and teaching drawing. In this exclusive commission for Africa.com she makes a case for drawing as a medium that Africa can offer the world a new perspective on:
For those of us who draw, we understand that a drawing is many things. For those of us of African descent, who draw in a Western context, we [I] often feel alone. I know a few Black Americans who draw as their primary medium, but for some reason, in comparison to media like photography or painting, to be a Black artist who draws in America, is just not that sexy. As a Nigerian artist, where tradition in art has for the most part taken precedence over certain types of exploration, this place, where drawings can take just about any form, excites me.
I spent the past ten months living in Nigeria as an artist and lecturer whose practice in both, was firmly centered around experimental drawing. Drawing is constantly changing and becoming something new, but in Nigeria that change is generally rejected by academia and in the art world, takes a very apparent back seat to more traditional paintings and sculptures. With change, sometimes people are afraid that it’s not going to be itself anymore; that all its ‘ancestors’ will be completely abandoned and ignored. In a place where cultural traditions are so highly regarded, it is no wonder that anything that appears to challenge that is regarded with caution. Despite this, there will always be artists who push back, or rather, forward, to open up people’s perceptions. The thing is though, that even with the rapid changes in drawing as a medium, it still makes a [mostly] tangible connection to its humble beginnings. It’s still often based in line. It’s still honest or vulnerable. It’s still ‘not a painting’ even when it is.
While in Nigeria I was invited to participate in the exhibition, Crossing the Line; Contemporary Drawing and Artistic Process on view at Mixed Greens Gallery in Chelsea New York. The only answer for me was an emphatic ‘yes’. Drawing is everything that I do. It’s where I started from, and where I found my way back to after years pretending to be a photographer and textile designer. After the challenge of being in a place where my work is considered on the fringe, and having taught drawing to students that have only ever drawn from life, it was refreshing to remember that drawing outside of the box, is its own valid thing. And I, as a Nigerian…a Black artist, am part of that. For that reason I am thrilled to be exhibiting my work alongside female artists from all over the world like Firelei Baez, Oasa Sun DuVerney, Sanam Enayati, and Heeseop Yoon, who though their work is different from mine, share the same love of drawing and the idea that drawing has evolved to be anything you want it to be.
Watch: Ruby talks about her inspirations and exhibition
Ruby Amanze’s work is currently on view in Crossing the Line: Contemporary Drawing and Artistic Process curated by Dexter Wimberly and Larry Ossei-Mensah at Mixed Greens Gallery in NYC until August 16th.