Jebila Okongwu

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Jebila Okongwu critiques stereotypes of Africa and African identity while activating as counterstrategies African systems of thought, symbolism, and spirituality. His favored medium is banana boxes. Their clichéd texts and “tropical” graphics reference the “‘exotic”—a label applied to artists of African descent from Josephine Baker to Okongwu himself, both slyly playing on the banana’s sexual symbolism. When banana boxes are shipped to the West from Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, they retrace slavery routes, and highlight current flows of migration and capital that repeat patterns of exploitation of the “third world.” As Okongwu cuts up and recombines the boxes, he activates Chance—a vital root of Western Dada and African divination—and creates vibratory visual fields that echo popular “African” fabrics—themselves hybrid. Okongwu’s imagery is also inspired by civil rights, migration, street hawkers, and other socio-political themes, often employing performance—a key strategy of traditional African art.

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Jebila Okongwu

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