Family helps Kings Theatre bring stunning work of Nigerian artist to Portsmouth

ON DISPLAY Nigerian artist Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce's aunt Kume Harrison, from Hayling Island, at her neice's exhibition, with her husband Chris and their daughter Zino, aged four. Juliet is pictured inset.    Picture: Steve Reid (112950-679)
ON DISPLAY Nigerian artist Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce's aunt Kume Harrison, from Hayling Island, at her neice's exhibition, with her husband Chris and their daughter Zino, aged four. Juliet is pictured inset. Picture: Steve Reid (112950-679)
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THE artist may be more than 4,000 miles away but her work is still bearing her powerful message.

Nigerian artist Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce is exhibiting three pieces at the Kings Theatre, Southsea.

Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce

Juliet Ezenwa Maja-Pearce

The 43-year-old artist and girls’ rights campaigner decided to arrange an exhibition of her work in Portsmouth because her aunt and uncle, Chris and Kume Harrison, live on Hayling Island.

Searching through the internet, Mrs Maja-Pearce discovered the Kings Theatre was a big supporter of artists and asked if they would like to display her work, which they were delighted to do.

That was in February 2010 and she has had to jump through many bureaucratic hoops to get it here. Mrs Maja-Pearce, who is married to British-born writer, Adewale Maja-Pearce, was denied a visa to go to the exhibition by the British Embassy.

And her work was stuck in customs for months while the duty was negotiated by her uncle, Mr Harrison.

But she is delighted that the people of Portsmouth will see her paintergraph pieces, which feature sculptures, mirrors and ceramics on printmaking plates.

She said: ‘The Bride, The Bid for the Bride and Brides Maids tell the same story from different view points.

‘Marriage is a very serious institution in Africa. The traditional ceremonies demand a lot of preparations.

‘Most female children are given in marriage during their teenage years.

‘Only the few elites allow their adult daughters to choose their own spouse.

‘Quite frequently it happens that the parents of the bride greedily give their teenage daughters to wealthy men who can afford the outrageous dowry.

‘I’m very excited and hope it gets a good reception in Portsmouth.

‘I’m frustrated that I did not get a visa to come over but unfortunately trying to get a British visa is as difficult as winning the lottery.

‘I wanted to speak about my work and take part in workshops. I hope to visit one day though.’

Mr Harrison, from St Margaret’s Road, Hayling, is a retired Portsmouth City Council art director.

He managed to get customs to reduce the duty from more than £2,0000 to £150.

He said: ‘Now that we’ve got the work out of customs it’s really exciting.

‘Something so modern, so very West African, looks great against the Victorian decor of The Kings.’

Sandra Smith from the theatre, said: ‘It’s vivid, vibrant, it’s spectacular.’

The exhibition is on until August 31, Thursday and Saturday from 10am until 2pm, Entry is free.