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This is her first institutional exhibition in Wales and features a collection of paintings that present fresh and arresting compositions of colour, pattern, and motifs – key signatures in her work. Fundamentally at the heart of her practice is a bold interest in storytelling.

Ode to Olaudah Equiano follows a contextual interest to centre the lives of pre-20th century Black, British individuals and communities. Drawing on historical archives and collections, this new body of paintings foregrounds some significant, and some unknown, individuals.

Following on from a body of work developed in 2020 that looked to aristocrat Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843-1880), and other unnamed Black Edwardians, Labinjo began to learn about figures such as writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), and his memoir ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African’. This book­ – one of the first in Europe by a Black African writer ­– charts the remarkable story of his life and is the starting point for this exhibition.

What struck Labinjo reading about Equiano, Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780) and Phillis Wheately (1753-1784), was that their families and the lives of their Black contemporaries in Britain, were largely absent in pictorial accounts of the social and cultural life of the period. This body of works seeks to piece together some of those missing histories: intimate portraits, domestic objects, clothing, and representations of their journeys from Africa to Britain, to re-present their stories in the 21st Century.

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