Rele Gallery takes Marcellina Akpojotor’s “Ode to Beautiful Memories” to Art Basel Miami Beach

Rele Gallery will present a solo booth of Marcellina Akpojotor: ‘Ode to Beautiful Memories’ for its premier Art Basel Miami Beach participation from December 2, 2021. 

Ode to Beautiful Memories, the Lagos-based gallery says in a statement, “is an ongoing dialogue on familial history, the evolving nature of archives and an intimate celebration of memories and generational legacy”. It explains further that the series functions as both a re-engagement with a personal history as well as an act of remembrance and commemoration, serving as a monument and testament to past lives and unfolding futures. 

“Drawing heavily from oral traditions as well as archival materials, Marcellina Akpojotor creates densely layered work that delicately explores the life and realities of her late great-grandmother Dede Eboheide Anare estimated to have been born in 1910 and died in 1992,” says the statement. 

In this body of work, the artist honours the life and legacy of her great-grandmother and imagines the series as a monument. An act of re-memory and commemoration.

Akpojotor, according to her bio on the gallery’s website, had her first apprenticeship under her father; assisting him with drawing, design, stencil, writing and calligraphy work before she eventually moved on to study Art and Industrial Design at the Lagos State Polytechnic. 

Employing collaging and traditional painting techniques, Akpojotor produces richly textured and layered work with compelling visual imagery exploring femininity, personal and societal identity and issues surrounding women empowerment in contemporary society. Working primarily with discarded pieces of the Ankara fabric ─ sourced from local fashion houses ─ commonly known as the ‘African print fabric’ despite its Dutch origin, she investigates the politics of the fabric as a cultural signifier and a conduit for memory and shared energy. 

In her work, Akpojotor presents powerful images that at once captures the unyielding strength, complexities and seemingly effortless style of her subjects while also referencing the long, arduous journey to female empowerment and gender equality, especially in contemporary African societies. 

In 2015, Akpojotor participated in Make We Do, a performance workshop by Afiriperfoma at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, and in 2016, the 19th Bone Performance Art Festival, in Bern, Switzerland as well as ‘Onobrakpeya and the Harmattan workshop’, at Lagos Court of Arbitration, Lagos. In 2017, she was selected to be part of the Rele Arts Foundation Young Contemporaries exhibition and was awarded the Ronke Ekwensi Salon fellowship following the publication of the book ‘The Art of Nigerian Women’ by Ben Bosah in which she was profiled. Akpojotor has also taken part in several group exhibitions including; Sisters: The Art of Nigerian Women in 2018 at the Carnegie Gallery, Columbus, Ohio and the Young Contemporaries Alumni Exhibition, New Directions in 2020 at the National Museum, Lagos. Her work, Tobi (2015) was used as the cover image for the novel Jagua Nana by Nigerian author Cyprian Ekwensi first published in 1961, and republished under Penguin Random Art ‘Modern Classic’ which was released in May 2018. Her work has also been featured on Harper’s Bazaar, BBC Nigeria, the Goethe Institut and Channels TV. 

Her first solo exhibition She Was Not Dreaming was at Rele Gallery in 2018 and has participated in prominent art fairs across the world including the FNB Art Joburg Fair 2019 (South Africa), Art Dubai 2020 (Dubai) and the 2020 edition of the LA Art Show  (USA).

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