Chidi Ononuju stands in front of diverse art in ߲ݴý, D.C., at Africa World Art Gallery on May 14, 2024. (Eden Harris/The ߲ݴý Informer)
Chidi Ononuju stands in front of diverse art in ߲ݴý, D.C., at Africa World Art Gallery on May 14, 2024. (Eden Harris/The ߲ݴý Informer)

Chidi Ononuju, a Nigerian-born artist, is not just the founder and curator of the in Northwest D.C. His passion for African art inspired him to move to the U.S. in 2017 with a dream of promoting and preserving Africa’s rich artistic heritage. His mission is not just about his art but about becoming a vehicle to help others share their work regardless of their racial identity.

“I always saw myself as an avenue for other people to express themselves and show off what they have done,” Ononuju told The Informer. “So having a gallery was always in the back of my mind.”

According to the gallery’s website, it aims to promote “crafts from Africa and [those] of African descent.” 

However, recently, Ononuju has been expanding his mission to go beyond the African art he proudly promotes. He decided to showcase the art of four white women. Those artists are Heather John, Clara Beyer Bower, Alfa Tate-O’Neil and Nina Benton.

Artwork by Uzo Uzorchukwu Echegin titled “Lone Walker” (Eden Harris/The ߲ݴý Informer)
Artwork by Uzorchukwu Silas Echegini titled “Lone Walker” (Eden Harris/The ߲ݴý Informer)

“I’m trying to make it a place where everybody can come together and just enjoy the creativity of people,” He told The Informer, adding that though his focus is on “African paint artists,” he wants to bring in other people from different races occasionally.  

The National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency, cites a lack of diversity in the art world, with “just [5%] of professional staff in art [being] people of color, with even fewer among senior management.” 

Ononuju argued that if the world seeks change, it must embody it.

“There’s [this] talk about being inclusive. We want that in [white people’s] spaces, we should also put it out there to the world that we can accept other people in our spaces,” he told The Informer. Ononuju said inclusiveness is essential for “life” in general, and it’s critical not to restrict things to his race.

When it comes to the fusion of diversity and art, Ononuju said: “If a white person can create something that the Black person can appreciate, why not give them the opportunity to have that,” he said. “If a Black person is creating it for Black and white people, or any other race, why not give them that as well.”

Along with the art of the current four featured artists, which started showing on May 3 and will run until June 30 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Ononuju keeps art from his late friend Uzorchukwu Silas Echegini, who passed away in a boating accident, ever present in his gallery. 

“This is kind of like an homage to him. I guess he’s always here. He’s looking over this place because I started off my gallery with paintings from him,” Ononuju said.

In August, Chidi Ononuju's African World Art Gallery will feature the work of Alan Saint Clark. (Courtesy of Alan Saint Clark)
In August, Chidi Ononuju’s Africa World Art Gallery will feature the work of Alan Saint Clark. (Courtesy of Alan Saint Clark)

Ononuju said he will also put something on for Pride Month to meet the moment, and will celebrate body positivity and showcase the work of various artists. This exhibit will go from June 7 to June 17.

In addition, he plans to showcase an African American artist named Alan Saint Clark in Aug 2024. His showcases comic books “that explore structural power dynamics within the United States and globally.” 

Clark can be described as your “friendly neighbor supervillain,” Ononuju told The Informer. “His graphic novels include “Civil: The Life of Bayard Rustin” and writer Anna Bergman. 

“Depicting Bayard’s story has been fascinating because I get to see the trajectory of his influence on the victories of the Civil Rights Movement,”  Clark told The Informer. “I see how he put actions and strategies into play that continued to build momentum as he kept organizing, educating and collaborating. I’m moved by the critical mass of his contributions.”

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