Dr. Moyo Okejidi
Excerpts of an essay on artist Celeste’s work by Dr. Moyo Okediji.
June 2012

Celeste employs the visual arts to identify, eulogize, and illuminate the wildlife of Africa. As a South African artist resident in Nigeria, she draws on the abundant variety of flora and fauna of Africa, as well as from figurative styles in the Western classical traditions of realism. Her combination of these various sources enables her to celebrate the wildlife of the continent in a refreshing and stimulating portfolio that projects her unique talent for keen observation and visual imagination.

Celeste’s drawings and paintings clearly convey her close studies and understanding of the wild life in Africa. The studies are so true to life that they transcend the materials with which the artist works, and appear to live a life independent of the medium. In Celeste’s hand, the flora and fauna of Africa enjoy a vivid rendition that is so convincing to the viewer that they transport the mind from the immediate moment, to a universal location within the African landscape. In this terrain of luscious imagination, Celeste releases the character of her subject by conveying the essence of their being, in a manner that transcends the precision of a photographic rendition.

But despite the wealth of talent and technical proficiency that go into the making of great camera works, there remains an artificial residue of the mechanical constrains imposed by the complexity of the technological processing.

As drawings and paintings, Celeste’s work is different from the craft of camera operations. It operates on the same level as the wildlife on which it draws. She displays in her work the same vulnerability and risk-taking as the wildcat venturing out of her cave to enjoy the abundance of blessings that nature offers in infinite measures and volumes. The freshness of nature, like the fragility of the morning dew on a blade of grass, eludes reproduction as a factual reality. It is an experience that the human imagination conveys from an empathetic sensibility that grows on actual experience.


Celeste becomes one with nature by understanding, enjoying, and sharing glimpses of wildlife from a psychological disposition that is pleasurable.

The risk-taking underling her lively philosophy engages both physiological and psychological endeavours. The physiological aspect is visceral, not an intellectual force, but an inward experience of reality that comes from tactile, visual, olfactory, and other forms of somatic concentrations.


It is on this drama that Celeste finds the balance of her draftsmanship with psychological and emotive elegance. The gaze of an artist drawing from nature is mediated by emotional undertones that humanize the technical demands of the medium of expression. This mediation is further tempered by the psychological disposition of the artist who is handing the medium. The individualism that Celeste reveals in the work is a product of a sensibility emanating from specific cultural practice, memory, influences, and personal preferences located in the collective experience.  

Her drawings and paintings respect the laws of the monocular vision that has nurtured western art since the antiquity of Hellenistic art. Celeste borrows the tool of the monocular vision from the Roman culture and employs it within the folkloristic possibilities of African romanticism. The result crosses the attitude of keen observation with the latitude of inventive imagination.  

Celeste invites us to save and accentuate the humanistic aspects of our civilization, to get wild about life. It is in our interest to listen to her, to enjoy her art, and, while we still may, to celebrate life.



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