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Artist Ajarb Bernard Ategwa takes Cameroonian pop art to Paris

Kwata Saloon is self-taught artist Ajarb Bernard Atwega’s first solo exhibition in France

By Amy Saunders  | August 26, 2021 | Category

Picture: Kumba 25 December by Ajarb Bernard Atwega, Supplied
Picture: Kumba 25 December by Ajarb Bernard Atwega, Supplied

33-year-old artist Ajarb Bernard Atwega from Kumba, Cameroon is a multidisciplinary artist who works and lives in Douala, Cameroon. Atwega is a self-taught artist who has been captivated by drawing and painting since his youth and uses acrylic and intense colour for his graphic paintings inspired by life in his homeland, Cameroon.

For his first solo exhibition in France titled Kwata Saloon, which will run at the AFIKARIS Gallery in Paris from August 28 - September 28 2021, Atwega is inspired by and paying tribute to the temporary hair salons popping up each year in Cameroon between November and December.

Kwata Saloon focuses on the temporary salons that pop up at the end of the year in Cameroon and the culture surrounding this annual ritual. Setting his easel in the beauty parlours, Ategwa bears witness to a temporary period, during which wellbeing and sharing are a central part of social life. While he draws his eye to the pampered women, he also depicts the men involved in this beautifying process, underlining the generational and intergender ties cultivated by this local practice. With vivid colours on canvas, Atwega brings the heat and bustle of Douala to his audience.

Picture: A family something by Ajarb Bernard Atwega, Supplied

"I confer my colours with a very personal, yet perhaps shared symbolic layer. Blue evokes the sea and calls to Douala, Kribi, and Kimbe. Yellow invokes the sun and points to the north of Cameroon. On the other hand, in using red and brown, I hint at the conflicts that have been plaguing the western regions for the past five years. Bathed in these colours, my characters inhabit the reality of their lived environment. Yet, by depicting them as such, I seek to liberate them from the duress of their everyday lives, instead paying homage to small moments of raw joy and broad solidarity.", shares Ategwa.

Atwega's work has been presented widely in Cameroon, including at the National Museum of Yaounde, World Bank Exhibition 2019, curated by Simon Njami and was recently acquired by the Pérez Art Museum Miami. It has also been featured in numerous major international fairs such as FIAC, Paris, Art Basel, Miami, Hong Kong and Frieze, London.

Take a look at more works from Ajarb Bernard Ategwa’s Kwata Saloon exhibition in the gallery below.

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