Marcellina Akpojotor amplifies family history in fabric-filled paintings of Nigerian domestic life

During her childhood in Edo State, Nigeria, Marcellina Akpojotor was immersed in an array of visual references owed greatly to her father’s penchant for artmaking. “(Such as) stencilling, calligraphy, painting landscapes, making banners, and making signs on the bodies of cars and yellow Lagos buses,” she tells us. Alongside her father’s artistic flair, she took to the grandeur of Catholic iconography in her church, and while absorbing these images, she began to make her own in the form of greeting cards for school friends. “The paintings and sculptures left impressions on my young mind; at some point I said to myself: I want to be able to paint like that,” she adds.

Throughout the years, though Marcellina engaged in art with her father, the title of an ‘artist’ didn’t ring as feasible. “I saw it as a hobby, something I could do on weekends after my regular job, but after my secondary school education and writing entrance exams to study computer science, I had what I will call: a reawakening,” she tells us. “After conversations with friends I was also encouraged to pursue art. I realised that I wanted to devote my life to what brings me joy”, and so she went on to study art and industrial design at Lagos State Polytechnic.

Marcellina’s early participation in transformative conversations and collaborative art making, are pertinent to her oeuvre. Not only because of the clear road they have paved to her career, but also because every one of her works are a reflection of communal fulfilment, sharing and care. In Diatacheko’s Parlour, the family photo album comes to life with delineative effect; a family sat on the sofa in an airy domestic setting with only the mother and a young daughter ready for the snapshot. Here, all other eyes are focused on another toddler, in a moment of abstract fondness. It feels as though this image is one of many flicks taken in a series of moments, but Marcellina’s work resonates for her choice to bring the most natural – although fleeting – moments to her canvas. Throughout the artist’s works, this is not uncommon. The characters feel unrehearsed, and if they are, the first rehearsal is her motif of choice.

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