When Legends Die concludes a series of efforts first devised by TH Lord Temitope Omodele, third son to the barony of Obafemi, house of ambassadors, with his husband, TMH Lord Jideofor Emeka, 19th Marquess of the UmuEze Amara, RSO, OG, EC, one of the oldest noble clans of Nigeria.
Embarking to share their respective family legacies beyond cultural, provincial, and continental boundaries, their lordships sought to draw a more expanded portrait through the careful choice of works from their famed art collections—separate from the known public image of respectability oft presented by titled aristocracy—to express the inner workings of their family. Since the first presentation, A Matter of Fact, mounted at the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, in 2016, their lordships have been heartened and humbled by the response to the project, aiming to celebrate the union of distinct perspectives and values in hopes of finding commonality and camaraderie with the viewership and sites their stories interact with.
Through the course of this engagement, subsequent partnerships were formed at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, with To Wander Determined, in 2017; the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Georgia, with Testing the Name, in 2018; and recently at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, staging The Firmament in June of this year. Each exhibition has been a new and instructive experience for their lordships: to see how much interest developed for their heritage, but also for members of Nigerian nobility and for Africa as a whole. Despite the overwhelming reception, Lord Emeka and Lord Omodele have agreed to close the loans of their traveling collection with When Legends Die, which was organized and compiled by his lordships’s nephew and heir apparent, TMH Lord Afamefuna Emeka Iwu, Earl of Ikwerre, RSO, EC, son of the Marquess’ eldest sister, Lady Adanna Emeka. As they are both approaching middle age, their lordships felt it pertinent to hand over the responsibility of selections to the younger members of their houses, as their generation will become the custodians of how their birthright and endowment will be defined and manifested. Thusly, the children decided upon the theme of commemorating the late 18th Marquess of UmuEze Amara, TMH Lord Ikemefuna Emeka, who died tragically while undertaking a gap year from university in 1994. He was just twenty-nine years old, which, coincidentally, is the present age of the young Lord Emeka Iwu.
When Legends Die was conceived in collaboration with Jack Shainman and the late Claude Simard, dear friends to Lord Emeka, due to a fateful meeting one afternoon in March of 2011. It gives their lordships great joy to close this chapter at a space they consider an extended home in New York. In honor of the late Marquess and in homage to Mr. Simard, the young members chose specific depictions from the family archives, namely candid portraits, documents and various paraphernalia from holdings in family seats at Amara Palace (Onitsha), Udoka House (Lagos), and the Obafemi Family Vineyards (Ota). Much of what is presented has not been seen by other members of both families, including their lordships; however, they gave their blessing to Lord Emeka Iwu to curate as he pleased and are proud to share what the future formulation of the UmuEze Amara Clan and the House of Obafemi holds.
Ojih Odutola was born in Ile-Ife, Nigeria in 1985 and currently lives and works in New York. Current solo exhibitions include Scenes of Exchange, 12th Manifesta Biennial, Palermo, Italy, through November 4, 2018, Toyin Ojih Odutola: The Firmament, Hood Museum of Art (Hood Downtown), New Hampshire, through September 2, 2018 and Toyin Ojih Odutola: Testing the Name, Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia, through September 9, 2018. Recent solo exhibitions include Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2017 and A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Museum of African Diaspora, California, 2016-2017.
Ojih Odutola is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama and the Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)