Ajarb Bernard Ategwa | Cromwell Place: Kwata Picture

7 - 12 March 2023

Private View: Tuesday 7 March, 6 - 8 pm

With drinks reception in the presence of the artist.

Open Wed -  Sat: 10 - 5 pm, Sun: 10 - 4 pm


Jack Bell Gallery is pleased to present a body of paintings by Ajarb Bernard Ategwa. In this series, the artist continues to draw on patterns from Cameroonian 'Caba' textiles and introduces a new figurative painting technique. This will be his ninth solo exhibition at the gallery.


The new paintings are a development of my early work that were scenes from roadside markets. All those people that I was painting, I didn't know them personally. Now I have decided to paint the people I know very well, like my son, my wife, and my close friends, which is why you can see that I am trying to bring out their faces. Because I see them on a daily basis, I can't paint them in the same abstract way. I am often working from photographs that I have taken myself, it's a way to share my direct moments with the people around me, to show my surroundings and how I live.

- Ajarb Bernard Ategwa


In his previous series, Ategwa works with portrait formats to capture subjects from a neighbourhood photo studio. He offers a local perspective on modes of self representation in Central Africa today. Both style and composition in the images recall African black and white studio photography from the post independence era. The use of framing and strong defined identities reference more contemporary influences from social media platforms. In stark contrast to the artist's hard line execution, the paintings have expressive and painterly backgrounds and use water colour to hold back the portrait's full disclosure.
Ategwa lives and works in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city. His hometown has had many foreign influences in the past and more recently an influx of migrants from within the country as well as from neighbouring regions. This has shaped Douala into the vibrant and colourful metropolis that is the source of Ategwa's art. The paintings work as sequences in a larger narrative describing the chaos of his urban environment.
Ategwa’s works are large format and mimic the scale of cityscapes and public space. Moving between the taxi stands, newsagents, bars, roadside markets and fleeting moments of respite, the artist offers snapshots of everyday life. His vivid colour palette and graphic style speak the language of advertising familiar to Douala’s inhabitants.
Ategwa was born in 1988 in Kumba, Cameroon. His work has been acquired by the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Previous exhibitions include Peres Projects, Berlin, and the Cameroon National Museum, curated by Simon Njami.