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Dylema Tells African Stories in Pure Gold

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Dylema Amadi is a Nigerian visual artist known for her unique use of materials and her captivating portraits. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and currently resides in London, UK. Recently, Dylema took the art world by storm with a most unique series. Taking a detour from traditional materials such as paint, charcoal, and pencils, Dylema used pure (24-karat) gold to create portraits that tell stories of her African heritage.

Image courtesy of Paul Fuller

Her work has often explored themes of identity, culture, and spirituality. She is also known for her ability to beautifully capture the essence of her subjects in her portraits. Often influenced by her Nigerian heritage, Dylema’s practice is an expression of her heritage, experience, and dissatisfaction. It serves as an avenue to address the intolerance and discrimination she experienced growing up and still continues to experience.

According to the artist, her gold-embellished pieces, which included a portrait of herself and those of African diasporan women, were inspired by the themes of self-discovery and acceptance. The artist was recently diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and her golden art was an expression of the will to accept the bodily changes caused by the condition such as excessive facial hair and weight gain. These works were created using gold-embellished oil paint, and they are on display in Somerset House, London.

Image courtesy of the artist

In addition to her visual artistry, Dylema is also a writer and a performance artist. She is very well known in the UK as a spoken wordsmith and has performed her spoken word poetry at events in the UK and Nigeria. Dylema’s use of gold in her artwork is not simply an aesthetic choice; it is also symbolic. Gold was originally minded in Africa, and has been used for centuries as a symbol of wealth and status. Dylema’s use of gold challenges these traditional notions. By using gold to paint ordinary people, Dylema is making a statement about the value and worth of all individuals, regardless of their social standing said “There is a call for African people to be seen as human, and humanity is what I am depicting in my paintings.”


Joy Adeboye is a creative writer and visual storyteller. She is a graduate of the Department of English and Literary Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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