A young artist whose work I admire immensely is Marcellina Akpojotor. She is from Nigeria and her art explores female empowerment and the roles of women in African society.
She says she was drawn to art from an early age and spent a lot of her childhood observing her father, a sign maker in Lagos. After school, she would watch him working in his studio, learning calligraphy, painting, stenciling and drawing.
She studied art and industrial design at Lagos State Polytechnic where she won an art competition in 2013. She then went to Obafemi Awolowo University where she completed a bachelor’s degree in painting.
Marcellina has participated in prominent art fairs including the FNB Art Joburg Fair 2019 (South Africa), Art Dubai 2020 (Dubai) and the 2020 edition of the LA Art Show. She made her solo debut in 2021 at Art Basel Miami Beach. Her work “Ode to Beautiful Memories” was presented by Rele Gallery, which has locations in Lagos and Los Angeles. She was also an artist in residence at Fountainhead in Miami, and her show, “Daughter of Esan: The Alpha Generation,” opened in October last year at Rele’s Los Angeles outpost.
Her internationally acclaimed, award-winning designs use intricate collages and painting techniques. Marcellina is known for recycling colorful discarded strips of Ankara fabric, incorporating different prints into textile art. She has chosen this African fabric for its cultural significance and its role in the history of her country. In her large-scale portraits, she uses it to create eyes, hands and bodies. By using discarded textiles she also speaks to the global issue of waste in the fashion industry.
I love her work and am proud to own a fantastic piece by Marcellina titled “Blooming Red Soil” (2020). It’s bright and infused with color. The portrait within the work is made up of different images from her family archive.
Confident and complex, Marcellina’s work explores identity and issues surrounding women’s empowerment in contemporary society. Her images depict the strength and style of her subjects and the ongoing journey to gender equality in African societies.