Art Dubai Residents: Nigerian artist Tonia Nneji wants women to know they aren’t alone

Tonia Nneji works on a new piece in 2020.  A.R.M. Holding is the home of Residents and the program is supported by Tashkeel. (Photo courtesy: Lena Kassicieh)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Art Dubai Residents: Nigerian artist Tonia Nneji wants women to know they aren’t alone

DUBAI: Nigerian visual artist, photographer, art blogger and graffiti artist Tonia Nneji was one of six talents invited to take part in the Art Dubai Residents program, which will no longer exhibit physically due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Color plays a central role in Nneji’s practice — a tool she embraces to imbue her art with accessibility and positivity. Her diverse works delve into overlooked societal and health issues that negatively impact women and children.

“My work is more social activism than political, because the themes are things people neglect and don’t talk about,” said Nneji. “I come from a society of superstition, so every little health issue is from a witch in the village trying to harm us.” She explained that even educated females rarely visit clinics as they still adhere to longstanding cultural beliefs that medical conditions such as PCOS — with which Nneji has struggled with — or endometriosis are due to “an enemy in the village trying to use voodoo.”




AD Residents_Tonia Nneji, Night Series (2), 2019, Rele Gallery. (Supplied)

Elaborating on the example, she added that there is a widespread social dismissal of even concrete medical test results. “In Africa, people need to understand that things are real,” asserts Nneji of her work’s main goal.

 But just because the themes are weighty, her approach is not. For the piece she created in the UAE, Nneji took advantage of the opportunities to explore markets and fabric. “I use draperies as a tool of hiding, to represent protection, a safe place,” she explained. “Where I come from, it’s very hard for people going through emotional distress to come out and say it because they don’t want to be judged, so I’m using this to explain and show what’s happening.” And the colorful fabrics illustrate more than accessibility. “The storylines may be sad, but the colors brighten them,” she observed. “’Sad’ doesn’t have to be in black or white, gray and brown.”

Nneji is focused on outreach through her works. “I want women to feel safe and not alone, like there’s hope,” she said. Her aim is for viewers “to see my work and know there’s someone out there experiencing the same thing and tell them that they can get help if they need it.”

Tonia Nneji is represented by Rele Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria.


Missing your salon? How to care for your hair while you #StayHome

We speak to a hair expert on the dos and don’ts of at-home hair care. (File/Instagram)
Updated 30 March 2020

Missing your salon? How to care for your hair while you #StayHome

DUBAI: As salon-goers face the closure of spas, salons and barbershops, we speak to Haneen Odeh, founder of UAE’s Snob salon for her take on the dos and don’ts of at-home hair care.

Many men and women who rely on salon visits to keep their lengths healthy could be left wondering what to do between now and their next visit to a professional hair stylist. But just as important is what not to do (read: DIY trim job) to avoid ruining your hair and having to impose your own personal period of self-isolation once the pandemic is over due to a ruined haircut you tried to pull off in the bathroom mirror.

Don’t bleach your own hair
“For those who usually go to the salon to dye their lengths blonde, roots may be starting to show now. And while it might be tempting, I would strongly urge to not bleach your own roots. Lightening dark hair is a very complex multi-step process that requires years of experience and professional grade products only available at salons. Bleaching your hair incorrectly might result in burning and damaging your hair. Instead, opt for a root spray such as the L'Oreal Paris Magic Root Cover Up Concealer Spray. Otherwise, you can always conceal your dark roots with a headband or try wrapping your hair up with a scarf.” 

Do deep conditioning treatments
“Use this time to nourish your hair with a deep conditioning treatment. A lot of people simply apply it in the shower on wet hair for a few minutes and call it a day, but that way means that your lengths aren’t getting the full benefits of the product. Think of hair like a sponge, when it’s wet, it’s already full of water and cannot absorb anything more. So to make sure the product is fully absorbed into your locks, towel dry your hair after shampooing and then apply the treatment. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then rinse. You’ll see a huge difference.” May we suggest The Let It Go Circle hair mask from Davines, which is designed to boost hydration and revitalize dry and brittle strands?  

Don’t pick up the scissors
“When you’re bored, it might be tempting to pick up the scissors but, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t trim your own bangs or make any big changes to your hair cut on your own. It will inevitably go wrong and you will end up paying more to get it fixed in the long run. Try out some new hairstyles instead. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube so experiment a little and get your hair professionally cut once it’s safe to do so.”

 Don’t over wash
“The more you wash your strands, the more you strip the scalp of its natural oils, and that in turn makes the scalp produce even more oil, which causes you to wash your hair more often — and the cycle goes on and on. Now is the perfect opportunity to give your lengths a break and cut down on the washing. Your hair might get oily, but once the adjustment period is over, you will notice that it will require less frequent washing.”

Do try scalp treatments
“Too often, we pay attention to the lengths of our hair and give our scalp no attention. But caring for your scalp improves the overall health of your tresses, stimulates hair growth and gets rid of dandruff due to product buildup. Scalp treatments range from serums to salt scrubs, so pick a product that suits your hair needs. Le Labo's basil-scented Scrub Shampoo uses black sea salt and menthol to clear away dirt and cool scalps down.”