Njideka Akunyili

US-based artist Njideka Akunyili is fast becoming the art world’s newest star. At this year’s Art Basel five of her large figurative collage paintings sold out in just half an hour. She was selected for the prestigious Studio Harlem residency program in 2011-2012 and is currently one of the three artists in its exhibition Primary Sources. Rumour has it that major collectors and museums are now vying for the works on show – an impressive feat for the recent Yale University MFA graduate.

Her art addresses her internal tension between her deep love for Nigeria, her country of birth, and her strong appreciation for Western culture, which has profoundly influenced both her life and her art. She uses her art as a way to negotiate her seemingly contradictory loyalties to both her cherished Nigerian culture that is currently eroding and to her white American husband. Most of the Nigerian traditions she experienced growing up are quickly disappearing due to the permeation of Western culture and the ensuing opinion that being ''too Nigerian'' is uncool.

Akunyili refers her work to Professor Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity and the ‘third space,’ in which cultures come together to create a new hybrid social space. It is this big mixed bag of emotions which clearly drives unique and beautiful art as in the case of Akunyili.Njideka was born in Enugu in 1983.


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