A Tale between Two Worlds: Njideka Akunyili


About the Artist:

“It really comes down to me showing my Nigeria. If people can see a new side to Nigeria (through my work), I’m helping to add to the stories that already exist”



Born 1983 in Enugu (eastern Nigeria), contemporary artist Njideka Akunyili moved to the U.S at the age of 16. After discovering her passion for the creative Arts whilst studying Biology and Fine Arts at Yale, she made the brave decision to leave her medical career behind. As you can imagine, this decision did not go down too well with her parents (as those with African parents will know only too well).

Her extraordinary talent and hard work as an artist is now being noticed however, as Njideka Akunyili pieces have found their way into reputable art galleries. London’s Tate Modern and Yale University’s art gallery to name a few. An impressive feat. Her work, largely based on combinations of numerous materials (acrylic, charcoal, pastel and pencil with intricate collages), serves the purpose of combining her ‘strong appreciation for Western Culture,’ and her interpretations of Nigeria.

In a statement describing her work, She said, “It really comes down to me showing my Nigeria, in the things I recognise. If people can see a new side to Nigeria, I’m helping to add to the stories that already exist. When you look at the work, things are jarring. I want people to feel like something is off, like something is lost. It’s a little bit like wanting to put people in this weird no man’s land. I try and do that a little bit with the construction.”

Her emphasis on bringing together different elements, is strongly influenced by Chinua Achebe and other preeminent Afro-Caribbean writers. In a short interview with the ‘Huffington Post’ regarding the time it takes to complete her work she said, ‘It takes about three to four weeks to finish each piece. I can do it in two weeks if I work 17-hour days.’  Further pressed about the methodlogy behind her work, her response was; ‘”There is no one way I start my work. Sometimes I have a clear idea of the composition. I’ll make sketches, work out the study with ink drawings and plan out the colors in Photoshop. Other times I start with one small area of the drawing and let it grow, introducing various materials when the work needs them.”

Having created a respectable name for herself in the world of Contemporary Art, Njideka Akunyili has gone on to showcase her work through various exhibitions in New York, London, Milan, and South-Africa. At the 2012 Art Basel, five of her large figurative collage paintings sold out in just half an hour. She was also selected for the prestigious Studio Harlem residency program in 2011-2012 and is currently one of the three artists in its exhibition Primary Sources. More recently, she has garnered critical acclaim for her piece entitled ‘The Rest Of Her Remains’.

Described in the Huffington Post as ‘the artworlds newest star’, we certainly won’t disagree! Despite her youth, she has already acquired a reputation as one of the most interesting artists of her generation. Her impressive work is distinctive yet daring. Njideka Akunyili tells a new Nigerian story and we salute her for doing so.


To view more of  Njideka’s work, Click here for her website. Be sure to visit Huffigton Post to read the full interview.




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