A few years ago, while randomly browsing the web like an addict looking for their next fix, I came across Njideka Akunyili Crosby body of work and silently drooled, oooh’ed and ahhh’ed with pupils dilated… bushy tailed. Little did I know that the Norton Museum of Art would bring her work to West Palm Beach for a solo exhibit titled “I Refuse to be Invisible”!
Akunyili Crosby was raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and left Africa at the age of 16 to pursue an education in the United States. The daughter of a surgeon and a pharmacist, she majored in biology at Swarthmore College and intended to eventually become a doctor.
“I grew up in a climate where the options just seemed to be very limited—medicine, engineering, law,” she recalls. Being an artist was not an option.
She works on toned paper and combines charcoal, pastel and pencil drawings with acrylic paints. She then composes scenes derived from her experiences living in both Nigeria and America, incorporating photo-transfers and collages, filled with family snapshots and images taken from Nigerian lifestyle magazines and the Internet. The result? Intricate, textured works that explore a complex topic—the tug she feels between her adopted home in America and her native country.
To top it off, Norton Museum will host a book and exhibition discussion focusing on Akunyili Crosby’s work and that of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Initially, I’ll admit that I almost fainted thinking that Chimamanda would actually be there in the flesh… but I guess — for the sake of the heart condition I don’t know I have — it was decided that this would be too much epicness. Too much awesomeness. Too colossal!
Clear as a bottle of filtered water, this is not to be missed. Make your way to the Norton Museum through April 24th to become acquainted with Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s work, if you aren’t already. Palm Beach County residents receive free admission on Saturdays.
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was named the winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and The New York Times selected it as one of that year’s 10 best books. Join a discussion of the novel led by Palm Beach County Library System staff, then tour the exhibition to explore the works and consider issues of identity and race both Nigerian-born artists face.
- Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Intimate Work Straddles Mediums And Oceans (smithsonianmag.com)
- Things fall into two parts: Artist Njideka Akunyili tells a new Nigerian story (independent.co.uk)