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By Isobel Van Dyke
fter the success of her New York show Black Venus, 26-year-old art historian, writer and curator, Aindrea Emelife is bringing it home.
The exhibition, first hosted last year at New York’s Fotografiska museum, explores the ways Black womanhood has been represented throughout history. A hit with New Yorkers, critics and TikTokers alike, the response was one that Emelife will never forget.
“Some of [the women who visited] had never been to a museum or exhibition before. To understand what value it had for them, those messages and TikToks and DMs will trump any review that the show gets. Knowing that they felt seen and represented in that space, and that their history and their story was shown, that was incredibly fulfilling,” she tells The Stack.
Emelife approaches her work with some key questions in mind that inform her curatorial decision making: What was the last exhibition you saw that changed your perception of the world? That sparked your sense of curiosity or made you look at something, or someone in a brand new light?
“When you finish a book you want to feel like something has been left on your soul, it’s the same when it comes to exhibitions. It’s at the core of what I do.” Put simply, Aindrea Emelife is the British-Nigerian curator intent on reshaping the future of British art.
“By highlighting stories and histories that have gone unseen or overlooked - as well as supporting pioneering artists who are showcasing the world in new ways - will allow people to better understand humanity, the world, themselves and the future.”
Emelife grew up in London and has been fascinated by art for as long as she can remember (despite having parents who weren’t museum fans - until it was her work they were going to see). Museums and galleries were spaces that allowed her curiosity and ideas to thrive, while the Courtauld Institute of Art gave her the tools to finesse them.
Having achieved so much and still four years off turning 30 (Emelife was included in Forbes landmark 30 under 30 list in 2021), Emelife, only pauses in response to one question, her proudest career moment to date: “There’s some that I can’t tell you yet. But receiving messages from people who have seen my exhibitions - and more specifically - receiving messages from Black women, those will always be my proudest career moments.”
Not only is Emelife working to bring Black Venus to London, she has a show opening in Accra, Ghana; and another in Chicago is in the works; and all while working on her next book — hitting shelves in 2024. “I’m not great at drawing, but I definitely see the work that I do as artistic” she tells me, “I want people to see and to feel seen”.
To learn more about the exhibition, Aindrea Emelife, curator of BLACK VENUS will be sitting down with Sharmadean Reid, founder and CEO of The Stack World, to unpack the exhibition and legacies and shifting perceptions of Black women throughout history. Find your tickets here for this exclusive conversation.
Major exhibition exploring Black women in visual culture comes to the capital; here, we catch up with the show's curator Aindrea Emelife.
By Isobel Van Dyke