Vanessa Lekule

Of Mourning & Celebration I, Oil on Canvas, 20″ x 24″, 2021

Of Mourning & Celebration II, Oil on Canvas, 20″ x 24″, 2021

The Girl & The Doves, Oil on Arches Paper, 17″ x 13.5″, 2021

Untitled, Oil on Arches Paper, 10″ x 12.75″, 2021

Kitenge (Design I), Oil on Canvas, 27.5″ x 39.75″, 2021

Vanessa Lekule

[BFA] Painting

My work references a blend of various African cultures intermixed with contemporary western culture & child-like renderings that serve my need for self-discovery.

As an immigrant, my sudden introduction to Western culture precipitated a need to erase my identity; I found myself shifting and sheltering different aspects of who I was in an attempt to fit in. I became very aware of the way I spoke, the clothesI would wear, and the traditions I held dear. I felt so unlike everyone around me that as a teenager, I struggled so greatly with a deep-seated resentment for my own cultural heritage. By actively addressing and healing this resentment, it took several years to re-embrace and rediscover a culture I put so much effort into burying.

My paintings celebrate this healing through a visual language greatly inspired by a collection of artists whose work I feel has mastered the understanding of color vibration, texture, form, and space. From the bold use of colors to the playfulness and abstraction of the forms, I intend for my paintings to read as playgrounds and moments of curiosity. Aiding in these curiosities are the patterns inspired by kitenge fabrics worn by East African women, celebratory wooden face masks from Gabon and Burkina Faso, an East African tale about a dead girl and her flock of doves, and a landscape inspired by a small village near mountain Kilimanjaro.

Painting has been one of the many vehicles to lead me back to music I once enjoyed dancing to, tales I once questioned, landscape I was once immersed in, and clothing I once wrapped myself in. What I once resented, I am now choosing to rediscover and celebrate.


Vanessa Lekule is an artist currently based in Lincoln, Nebraska. In her paintings, she explores the idea of self-discovery by drawing inspiration from African sculptures, pattern-making, and tactile fabrics. Vanessa is expected to earn her BFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in painting at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where she was a recipient of the Shelly Arnold Waggoner Memorial Scholarship Fund and Jean R. Faulkner Memorial Art Exhibition Award. Vanessa has also been a part of Eisentrager-Howard Gallery’s Annual Juried Undergraduate Exhibition, as well as the Identity exhibition in the MEDICI Gallery.