For as long as I can remember, my big sister has been putting pencil to paper, revealing to me mesmeric wedding dresses in our childhood twin room or majestic self-portraits that she scribbled down during her final few years of secondary school. For as long as I can remember, I have watched Adekepemi Aderemi shuffle between art and design, toeing the line in each medium, with her textiles canvases and her crafty items of clothing. For as long as I can remember my sister has been The Artist; this has been for life, it is for life.
So, of course when I heard that she recorded the highest number of pieces sold on an opening night at Alara – a retail space in Lagos that hosts exhibitions, collection launches and your favourite luxury designers – I was filled with incomprehensible joy and pride. Seeing a red dot beside the piece that draped my sister's laps everyday when I came home from work, is an indescribable feeling that I simply can't put into words. But that piece draped over her lap wasn't all she was working on. I never saw the process by underneath the needles and the thread that made up her tools for the final few pieces of Portals, was a portfolio of nude women, sketched by my talented sister, in what I suppose was her 'spare' time.
Titled Woman Crush Wednesday, this tantalising series invites women to submit their naked bodies to Adekepemi Aderemi, whose deft right hand will transform the picture into art, re-affirming the popular proclamation that women are a work of art. The aim of the series is to encourage women to see their bodies for the masterful creation they are. By exposing women's naked bodies, which is a huge taboo in these parts – adults have complained – this series also acts as a means of liberating women by knocking down the age-old fallacy that girls must dress 'modestly', in order to be considered 'decent' as a person; or women must 'dress for their size' in order to be considered attractive.
The Woman Crush Wednesday series has done a lot for me personally. Seeing the drawing of my naked body, I wasn't very satisfied with how I looked, there was a little too much going on around my belly (I expected a straight line but there was indeed a slight curve), but when I remembered the purpose of her recreating my body with pencil and paper, I said to myself "and that's fucking fine". Since then, I have put on weight, and for the first time in EVER I am HAPPY about it! Not to mention that seeing the bodies she has drawn from images submitted by other women, I have found my body goals, and also woken up to the asininity of my own prejudices against fat people (shame on me, work in progress).
Where Kepemi's Portals exhibition filled me with pride, the Woman Crush Wednesday series has filled me with a bountiful appreciation of the female form! And that's just what The Artist wants you to take away from this series.
In between her busy schedule as an artist and designer, my dear sister took the time out to share a few words on the impact she hopes this project will have, what inspired her to even begin, how the Woman Crush Wednesday series has helped her grow as an artist, and lots more! So that's enough rambling from me.
How did you come up with the concept for this series?
My work has always been more about the process for me than the outcome. It’s like a way for me to get my mind right/get over things/process emotions etc. I was in a place where I was displeased with my body and constantly comparing myself to these amazing looking women on Instagram who all have the exact same body type. Then I kind of had his brainwave like all the female bodies documented by artists are so different, there isn’t one standard body type represented – Jenny Saville’s extensive works on the female nude, a lot of depictions of Venus, Gustav Courbet’s sleeping woman, Egon Schiele’s female nudes, for example, all all depict different variations of the female body. They don’t all have massive perky boobs or rock hard abs, tiny waist and huge booty. They’re all different with varying proportions and they still all make for beautiful subjects & art. So why is everyone so obsessed with this one look?
So yh I just wanted to reflect this kind of realisation that I had in my own way. By getting all the women around me, myself included, to submit images and I draw them and show them, my few followers, and whoever else wanders onto my page, that all bodies are beautiful & works of art to be appreciated by all!
What kept you going through the series?
I actually found it really hard to even start!! I’m very shy about my work so posting it on such a public place, such as Instagram, was a huge step for me. But encouragement from my family spurred me on & is what kept me posting really. And then people have actually dm’d me saying they liked the pieces, or are interested in buying, or see me in public and commend the series/message; someone even told me I was inspiring them to get back into drawing etc. So all that has really been very moving for me, it was so unexpected and kind of reassured me that I should continue.
What did you hope to achieve?
To portray as wide a variety of women’s bodies as possible so all feel included. And to get women to fall love with their bodies regardless of appearance, and even be bold enough to submit images for drawing.
How has this series helped you on your journey towards body confidence?
I think I have a much greater appreciation for my body, may sound vain to some but I truly think it’s beautiful now lol. I’m also not so obsessed with like the soft parts – it is what it is. I no longer feel like I need to resort to unhealthy things to lose weight and appear a certain way. I’m much more focused on my general health and wellbeing. I don’t really compare my body to other women’s either which is very important. We are not in a competition, comparisons aren’t necessary we can be and should all be appreciated and adored completely, regardless of appearance.
How/why do you think sketching naked women's bodies empowers women?
I think it gives women a realistic view of what other women look like. I also think once you see a body that looks similar to yours depicted as art it gives you greater appreciation for your body, and hopefully start to see your body as a work of art too. Not like something that needs changing or cutting and sculpting as soon as you’ve got a bit of spare cash.
What has the reception been like so far?
Thankfully it’s been good. I am so grateful to all the people who like the posts and comment, to all those to dm compliments and interest in the artwork. I am especially grateful to the women who send their images in, they are so brave and amazing and I’m honoured they believe in the series enough to actually submit pictures.
Has this series helped you as an artists?
A LOT! And [drawing] really something I overlooked. Practice is the key to mastery of course, and I have noticed my drawing skills are improving throughout the series. It’s really great to see actually. It has kind of also changed how I view the purpose of my work. Now I am thinking more of how my work can convey a message or empower women in some/any small way.
Can we expect any more like it in the future?
Most definitely. I actually think the female form makes a great subject, lots of soft curves and undulations – not gra gra like men’s bodies lol. And after the success of overcoming this particular insecurity through drawing I am really encouraged to continue with this.
It’s also an interesting way to explore new things and get out of my comfort zone I will try and broaden my mind and skills by doing more series’.
The Woman Crush Wednesday series can be found on Kepemi's Instagram here; new images will emerge every Wednesday until the series concludes. All drawings will be available to purchase as printed t-shirts. Simply DM Kepemi with the drawing, colour and size of your choice.
Adekepemi Aderemi's first ever solo exhibition, Portals will remain on display until May 30 at
12a Akin Olugbade St,