From an art historical perspective, "the gaze" has always been the backbone of emotion in a piece of art. Over the centuries of portraiture and narrative pieces, artists have conveyed expression through their subject's eyes. With each type of look, whether that be an averted gaze or a coy, direct connection, the viewer and the subject create a dialogue. Furthermore these directions have consistently corresponded to a certain form of symbolism. For instance, the knowing smile of the Monalisa (1503) is one of the first examples of a direct gaze at the viewer/painter. This forthright acknowledgment of the viewer's presence shifts the conversation, making it a mutual exchange between the image and the viewer. In another earlier example, Botticelli's Birth of Venus (1486), Venus is presented nude with an averted side gaze. By not confronting the viewer, we are allowed to observe her nudity.
This deep rooted use of the gaze has been manipulated over time to convey a variety of meanings. A Nigerian artist, Uthman Wahaab has again, redefined its purpose. With little use of the gaze, to the point of non-existence, Wahaab paints with a different focus; the body. Wahaab's figures are full-bodied women, usually nude or scantily clad, that are depicted with "shrunken" heads, in an almost scratched out style. Very similar to previously seen images of female nudes throughout history, Wahaab's scenes depict women lounging or relaxing. In a more rare scene, the females are dancing, but even that is reminiscent of Degas' "dancers", another example of a historically predominant female space.