We aimed for no more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth. And so it came to pass that we stepped down there on a place we believed unformed, where only darkness moved on the face of the waters. Now you laugh, day and night, while you gnaw on my bones. But what else could we have thought? Only that it began and ended with us. What do we know, even now? [...] We can only speak of the things we carried with us, and the things we took away.
― Barbara Kingsolver
Thus Always To Tyrants
The notion of objectification and a fundamental denial of autonomy have been leading tenets of feminist theory since the 1970s. The socio-political landscape of the democratic world was deeply altered in very recent history with the controversial overturning of the Roe v. Wade precedent by the Supreme Court of the United States, which removes the constitutional protection of people with a uterus' legal right to choose whether they wish to terminate a pregnancy.
As a person with a uterus, I created this image as a means of internalising - and eventually weaponising - these patriarchal attacks on our voices and the agency we possess over our own bodies. The suspended feminine form is both alluring and repulsive, inert and aggressive, vulnerable and guarded. The viewer is drawn to the intimate, suggestive imagery of the nude and bound torso materialising out of a common household furniture object, but then frightened - and perhaps even disgusted - by the myriad of rigid nails pointing outwards in all directions from the seat of the chair.
Similarly, the boots in the foreground appear unattended or discarded at first glance, but this tempting inertia is disturbed by the presence of hundreds of silver nails spilling out from inside the shoes. All the objects in this composition remain suspended in a limbo state where boundaries are seemingly absent, yet the consequences of overstepping are made painfully clear. This image acts as a proclamation of shared pain as well as a rallying cry; it suggests that if the abuse of power by the select few individuals in the US Supreme Count is left to stand, an unforgiving, albeit justified, eventuality will befall those who wish to silence and subdue us.
This photograph is an attempt to explore the ways in which the artistic process informs the final product. When I graduated from my BAFA, I felt as if I was still under-equipped for working as a full-time sculptor; the skills I had acquired during my years of study did not provide me with sufficient tools to create work with high archival quality. The end goal during my time at university was only to produce work that would be shown for assessment - I was never encouraged to think beyond that point in terms of the lifespan of the artwork. During the next few years after my graduation, I had the opportunity to truly refine my practice and create works that were not only imbued with my own voice as an artist, but that would also continue to exist beyond the studio, much like the history of the characters that inspire my practice have persisted through various re-imaginings and re-interpretations since the era of early colonial expansion in Africa.
Practising as an artist has led me on a tedious journey of trial-and-error that has left various discarded pieces of old artworks in its wake. These items are like ghosts of works that could have been created but never quite manifested fully beyond the realms of imagination, much like the characters of my sculptures that exist just outside of official history.
In this image, the completed artwork towers above a pile of miscellaneous armour pieces and resin body parts. This particular sculpture is the 29th iteration in an ongoing series entitled No Man's Land - a series that I started while I was still in my third year at university (2015). This series has become a core element of my practice and identity as an artist today. No Man's Land is based on Yasuke, the only samurai warrior of African descent that ever featured in the canons of written history. It explores the ways in which Yasuke pioneered cross-cultural exchange and navigated a rapidly changing world where many traditions were suddenly lost or forever altered in the face of the looming colonial nightmare. Much like these traditions and cultural practices that were pushed to extinction when Europeans landed in Africa and empires collided, the vestiges of obsolete projects and articulations of the Yasuke character lie scattered in a mountainous pile before the completed sculpture's feet.
This photograph also serves as a self-portrait. The artist both becomes a part of the mountain of discarded objects and also asserts a sense of ownership onto it, much like the artistic process informs the persona of the artist and, simultaneously, no piece of artwork can be created without the history, experiences and philosophies of the artist creating it. As my No Man's Land sculpture series is an attempt to re-conceptualise being African in the post-colonial, global empire, this photograph is an attempt to reclaim past failures and dead ends to build an even richer and more diverse artistic self-hood.