Artist Feature: Marcellina Akpojotor

Editor Julia Alora, Art, May 16th, 2019

"A family's journey to fulfillment of the radical vision of her Great-Grandmother"



At first glance Marcellina Akpojotor’s art could be mistaken for colorful, stylized paintings full of shifting patterns. Carefully crafted from scraps of traditional Nigerian fabric called “ankara” and ceremonial clothing called “aso-ebi” these large scale mixed media portraits give powerful presence to the subjects of her work. Usually on panels that are four feet tall, these gorgeously textured pieces pull the viewer in for a closer inspection of women who are often historically overlooked. Be sure to zoom in to the images in order to appreciate the intricate blending of styles, patterns, and cultures.

From the Artist’s Publicist:

“Daughter of Esan” depicts five generations of women (Akpojotor’s great-grand mother, her grand-mother, her mother, herself and her child) with roots from Esan – an ethnic group that occupies central Edo State. Akpojotor chronicles her family’s journey to fulfillment of the radical vision of her great grandmother – Eboheide Anara Ikhisemoojie. Ikhisemoojie who was born in 1910 had wished to receive an education and was not able to. Her strong desire to be educated set the tone and paved the way for the other generations to reach various academic levels. Ikhisemoojie’s assertion of knowledge being a key path to liberation inspired Akpojotor’s “Power Series” where she has portrayed strong women, some in elegant, confident poses while some appear to be reading books. In her works, Akpojotor intentionally hides the faces of the women as a way to draw the viewer’s attention to the book they are holding, thereby emphasizing the importance of educating the girl child. 



Marcellina Akpojotor (b.1989 in Lagos) had her first apprenticeship under her Father; she grew up assisting him with her drawing, design, stencil, writing and calligraphy work before she eventually moved on to study Art and Industrial Design at Lagos State Polytechnic. She won first prize in the”OFF THE BIN PROJECT” art competition in 2013.

Marcellina has taken part in several group exhibitions some of which are: ”Sisters: The Art of Nigerian, Women” in 2018 at the Carnegie Gallery, Columbus, Ohio, “Onobrakpeya and the Harmattan workshop”, 2016, Lagos Court of Arbitration, Lagos. In 2015, she 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.

Marcellina was selected to be part of the 2017 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. Her work, “Tobi”, 2015, is the cover image for the Nigerian novel Jagua Nana by Cyprian Ekwensi. First published in 1961, and to be republished under Penguin Random Art “Modern Classic” was released May 3rd, 2018.



Julia Alora

Julia Alora is a transplanted Portland sculptoress inspired by biology and the natural world. Her works can be found lurking in the woods, guarding her studio, and in co-op art houses around the city.