Combining striking acrylic color and printed Ankara fabric, Nigerian artist Marcellina Akpojotor crafts powerful yet intimate portraits. Expertly manipulating mixed media to create “densely complex forms which allude to our complexities as humans,” Akpojotor tells My Modern Met that she hopes her work will allow us to “experience people on different levels.” In each piece, the highly textured and tactile surfaces of the fabric forms she constructs are juxtaposed against her smooth and colorful acrylic backdrops. Each multidimensional collage alludes to something deeper, subtly bringing out the diverse personalities of her subjects and allowing us to see them in a different light.
The bunches of richly printed fabrics she employs vary in type and are sourced from different African societies and cultures. Their distinct origins come together and coexist on her canvas, meeting to create beautiful and complex imagery that goes beyond what lies on the surface. “To me, it shows that we all have a part to play in the grand scheme of things,” Akpojotor explains. She initially started to incorporate fabrics into her work by using her mother’s old clothes to create jewelry and bags. And as she began experimenting with the fabrics in her artworks, the results completely transformed her practice and continue to inspire her work today.
“I’m inspired by everyday life as well as my maternal bloodline, particularly how it relates to femininity, personal and societal identity and issues surrounding women empowerment in contemporary society,” Akpojotor relates. “I am also fascinated by generational traits and how they inform the present and shape the future. I see humans as complex beings and textile materials were a great way to represent that as well as to create connections with my audience. I hope the textures and various features in the fabrics draw the viewer in and allow them to immerse themselves in the story.”