May 29, 2024

From a newfound desire for artistic expression just within the last five years, to blessing the halls of Kitchener City Hall, Chudear Oyual hosted her first-ever solo art exhibition titled “The Proclamation.”

Featuring eye-catching artworks based on South Sudanese Shilluk peoples, the exhibit brings abstract designs and striking portraits to life.

“I’ve gotten comments on the fact that this is sometimes a scary painting because of how real the eyes look as if there really is a soul behind them,” said Oyual. “It’s comforting knowing that in the creation of my art, my ancestors are with me.”

Oyual utilizes a wide variety of tools and styles on the canvas, from acrylic paints, oil, chalk, beads, and even spray paint. “It brings a different dimension to it,” said Oyual.

Chudear Oyual next to her artwork “Shilluk Women” at the Berlin Tower Artspace, on Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Hasan Nasir)

“My favourite piece is the Shilluk women with face scarification. It’s close to me because this is my mom’s culture that women would pierce their faces with needles to scar in a patterned manner, representing a high standard of strength and beauty.”

Oyual studied fashion and business at Seneca College in Toronto, where, despite limited creative outlets, the program helped rekindle her flame for artistic expression. “Other than that, everything is pretty much self-taught or watching YouTube tutorials,” said Oyual.

Starting out quenching her creative urges, Oyual gradually saw the growing interest in her work and began doing commission work for interested clients. “Money was never really a motivation as much as how happy people would be at experiencing the art,” said Oyual.

Chudear Oyual talks about her artwork at the Berlin Tower Artspace, at the Berlin Tower Artspace, on Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Hasan Nasir)

Oyual was born in Kenya and raised primarily in Canada, along with her three sisters and a single mother. “We’ve seen struggle and turmoil, but we also had a very strong family unit and great childhoods,” said Oyual.

In addition to her artwork, Oyual braids hair for local clients, helping her make extra money while simultaneously being a creative outlet for her. “It’s a pretty in-demand job. I get clients mostly from word-of-mouth,” said Oyual.

Chudear Oyual at her art exhibition “The Proclamation” on Thursday, March 28, 2024 (Hasan Nasir)

“The Proclamation” exhibition is on display in the Berlin Tower Artspace, inside Kitchener’s City Hall. Karoline Varin, the program administrator in the creative arts division at the City of Kitchener, highlighted the Artspace’s role in supporting emerging artists learning the ropes of the industry.

“[Oyual] is a young artist that shares a very sensitive and thoughtful viewpoint in her art. Her black and white portraits are especially powerful and really hold the viewer captive,” said Varin.

Front entrance of the Kitchener City Hall, on Thursday, March 28, 2024. (Hasan Nasir)

In addition to putting up the displays for free, the Artspace assists with promotion as well as sales with no commission fee. Artists can apply at the Berlin Tower Artspace website and are encouraged to do so at any time throughout the year, as it operates on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Oyual’s gallery is open at the Berlin Tower Artspace until the rest of April, and she’s already receiving great feedback. “Feedback has been supportive and very encouraging,” said Oyual.

“I am more than honoured to be recognized for the work I do, whether it’s a creation or bringing people together. It fulfills my purpose, and this is my joy.”

Berlin Tower Artspace hallway on Thursday, March 28, 2024 (Hasan Nasir)

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