Marcellina Akpojotor Meditates on Generational Legacy

Using images from history and her family archive, the Nigerian artist renders densely layered portraits of her beloved great-grandmother as a tribute to her pursuit of education as a means of women empowerment across generations.

Here, we ask an artist to frame the essential details behind one of their latest works.

Bio: Marcellina Akpojotor, 32, Lagos (@marcellina_akpojotor)

Title of work: Blooming Red Soil (2020).

Where to see it: Art Basel Miami (Rele Gallery, Booth P10) until Dec. 4.

Three words to describe it: Rhythm, texture, history.

What was on your mind at the time: At that time, I wanted to explore new ideas and honor the memories of my great-grandmother. I later realized that there were no existing photos of her in the family archive, but I didn’t want that to get in the way, so I followed the idea anyway and it led me to this new body of work.

An interesting feature that’s not immediately noticeable: The portrait within the work is made up of different images sourced from my family archive as well as internet images from the era in which my great-grandmother lived. It’s a way for me to recreate bits of her life and tell a layered story of community. 

How it reflects your practice as a whole: My work reflects the exploration of femininity, personal and societal identity, as well as issues surrounding women empowerment in contemporary society. My work has been primarily focused on exploring stories from my maternal lineage starting from my great-grandmother and her quest for education as a means of empowerment for women in the family. Seeing the various ways this quest has influenced our lives over multiple generations has been interesting.

One song that captures its essence: Repeat by Falana.

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