An amazing feature for you all today! I had the honour and pleasure of speaking to the glorious @marcellina_akpojotor - I was absolutely delighted to speak to her.
Speaking between the UK and Lagos, Nigeria, Akpojotor and I discusses artist history, favourite artists, art world, studio spaces and more!
“Everyday, I’m happy I am an artist and also grateful to everyone I’ve met on this journey. My studio are of two kinds- my mind and the physical space. I’m able to create when my mind is clear. My physical studio is a sanctuary of some sort. Its a place I go to enjoy the process of creativity, deliberating on forms, shade, texture, colours and others. I share the space with my husband who is also an artist.”
Akpojotor is one of my favourite artists to watch at the moment. Her dynamic works are made up of traditional painting techniques, alongside collage, to produce these compelling and distinctive works. Her pieces explore societal identity, female empowerment, femininity and more. I find them extremely powerful, passionate strong, complex and beautiful.
MARCELLINA, I'VE WATCHED YOUR WORK FOR AGES AS YOU KNOW. I'VE BE FASCINATED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR STORY SO FAR FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOUR WORK?
As a child, I remember being with my father who is an artist and a sign writer in his studio, helping out sometimes. I was quite a creative child. I designed greeting cards and lots of pretty things. Little did I know I’d be an artist.
Eventually, I got to study Art and industrial design at Lagos State polytechnic. I interned at the studio of the legend, Bruce Onobrakpeya where I had the opportunity to attend the Harmattan workshop and meet other artists. I started to explore textiles in 2013 and won an art prize that same year. By 2016, I was selected as Ronke Ekwensi fellow with the opportunity to visit the US and show my works to new audience. This came after I was profiled in the book ‘The Art Of Nigerian Women’ by Ben Bosah. I was also selected as a Young contemporary by Rele Art foundation and my works were featured in a group show in 2017 and I got represented by Rele Gallery.
RELE IS AMAZING. AND, ARE YOU PLEASED?
Everyday, I’m happy I am an artist and also grateful to everyone I’ve met on this journey.
TELL ME, Where are you answering these questions from Marcellina?
I’m answering these questions from Lagos, Nigeria.
AMAZING. AND, LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR STUDIO SPACES. I UNDERSTAND YOU THINK OF THIS IN TWO WAYS?
My studio are of two kinds- my mind and the physical space. I’m able to create when my mind is clear. My physical studio is a sanctuary of some sort. Its a place I go to enjoy the process of creativity, deliberating on forms, shade, texture, colours and others. I share the space with my husband who is also an artist.
THAT'S AMAZING. What do you listen to while you work?
I’m mostly having dialogue within myself at the initial stage, thinking and talking about life in the studio. I also listen to music as the work progresses and that can be really uplifting. I have also been dancing recently. I dance for the enjoyment of my soul which was largely inspired by my first child during the lockdown.
What does an average working day look like to you?
An average working day is rising up and resuming at the studio early. I discovered I’m a lot more productive when my day starts on time.
Your work employs a new take on fabric manipulation to create your collaged paintings as well as contrasting this with acrylic painting. How do you find your media for these pieces?
I source for the fabrics (particularly called Ankara) from different tailors in my neighborhood. The fabrics are cut outs and left overs from clothes they have sown. The swatches of the fabrics are like pieces of stories I use to create my works. Collage gives me the freedom to bring a lot of things together and really explore textures and materials. With Painting I love mixing and finding different colours and hues which kind of set the tempo for my work. Acrylic gives me this pleasure and immediacy.
Tell me a bit about your process, and how each work comes to life?
I start with conceptualizing the idea which informs my composition. This phase takes time. After settling on an idea, I then transfer the sketch on the canvas. I start attaching fabrics and deliberately creating texture on the canvas which alludes to the complexity of identity and then it is followed by painting using acrylic colours. I usually start with a central idea and build it up from there.
How do you know when a work is finished?
I know a work is completed when I feel good looking at it. The realization of everything working together gives me a sense of fulfillment. It’s like there is nothing else to add and most times I can’t seem to take my eyes off it!
Tell me about the women in your work. Where do they come from inside you, and What are they feeling?
The women in my works are passionate, confident, goal getters, self aware, strong yet vulnerable and they are evolving.
Who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them?
My environment and personal history influence me. I was influenced by artists Bruce Onobrakpeya and Peju Alatise. Seeing their works as an art student made me realise I could be a professional artist.
How do these come out in your work?
They show through with the kind of stories I tell. “Daughters of Esan”, is a generational story of timeless ambition of my great grandmother, Eboheide who was born around 1910 in Esanland. She wished to be educated but never got the opportunity. It chronicles the journey of five generations of women in my family starting from my great grandmother down to my daughter while highlighting the progress of each generation towards the fulfillment of my great grandmother dreams.
What memorable responses have you had to your work? And which artwork would you like people to remember you for?
It always memorable when people reach out because of how my works made them feel. The most recent is from someone in Germany. He told me my work inspires his daughters and that makes my heart sing with joy! He sent photos of where the piece( A beautiful day) was hanging- at the spot where he usually have breakfast with his daughters. That’s so exciting!
I’m so young with a lot of years and amazing works ahead of me. I would love to be remembered for all the works I have done so far and the one I will do next because I believe each piece adds to the bigger story.
Could you please pick a piece of your work, and tell me a bit about it?
The fifth generation is part of the body of work ‘daughters of Esan’
The piece depicts my daughter in yellow gown standing on a puzzled theme carpet and gazing at the globe which I used to represent travel around the world. The puzzle carpet design was the same at her day care center as a toddler. The bookshelf represents knowledge and education which my great grandmother wished she had received.
The piece represents hope that all children will have access to quality education and the world will be a safe place that encourages growth and upholds their rights.
If you could be a single colour, what would you be?
Red, teal, red, maybe a little yellow... I love colours. I guess I will be a different colour on different days.
I'M NOT SURPRISED AT ALL! What do you do for fun?
I read and most recently do little funny dances. Lol
If you could have a meal with any artist from any time, what would the meal be and who would it be with?
Spicy jollof rice with Njideka Akunyili Crosby
WHO ARE YOUR Favourite current practicing female artists and their Instagram Handles?
Tonia Nneji @tonia_nneji
Etinosa Osayimwen @etinosa.yvonne
Nenji Omuku @nengiomuku
Ndidi Emefiele @ndidi_emefiele
Jordan Castel @jordanmcasteel
Njideka Akunyili Crosby @njidekaakunyilicrosby
Modupeola Fadugba @modupeola.fadugba
Daisy Patton @daisy_patton
Who should She Curates interview next and Instagram Handles?
Tonia Nneji @tonia_nneji
Etinosa Osayimwen @etinosa.yvonne