For this exhibition (1 December 2018–13 January 2019), the artist has created a series of visually and conceptually mirrored pairs of paintings. One juxtaposes a Nigerian interior with Akunyili Crosby’s Los Angeles home. In another, a Nigerian table setting is matched with an American example.
The Nigerian image is centered around the trappings of afternoon tea, a custom brought to the country by its British colonizers that continues to incorporate European food products. The composition also includes a colorful plastic African “Clonette” or “DeiDei” doll of a Caucasian girl in Western dress and a Kris Okotie album cover inspired by Michael Jackson, both symbols of a popular culture shared internationally. The American counterpart to this still life offers a more troubling take on the interface of cultures. Embedded in the accoutrements of a Thanksgiving feast is a “blackamoor” serving dish, a disturbing decoration that trivializes the terrible history of African slavery in America. The exhibition’s two largest works isolate contemplative figures in architectural contexts that are alternately informed by Nigerian and American homes. In these detailed images, Akunyili Crosby augments paint with Nigerian portrait fabrics produced for ceremonies such as weddings, burials, and political campaigns. (The artist’s mother was a respected politician.) She also applies photographic transfers from Nigerian fashion and society publications that connect traditional Nigerian styles, fabrics manufactured in the Netherlands, and Western trends.
Image: Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Home: As You See Me, 2017