“At the collision of myth and history, we find truth,” says Arit Emmanuela Etukudo. “We find the self.” Using moving images, VFX, soundscapes, poetry, and sculpture, the Nigerian American artist creates evocative self-portraits that unearth deeper truths about the nature of Black existence.
Calling herself Black, Queer, femme, Nigerian, and dark-skinned—an identity that “according to society cannot exist”—Arit asks viewers to enter a realm where her marginalized identity holds power and sway. “In a way, I dare [viewers] to deny the evidence of the truths that are present,” Arit says, adding that she sees timeless versions of herself at the intersection of myth and history. “I challenge viewers to reconsider historical narratives and think about how they have shaped the interpretation of Black existence by viewing us with a monolithic lens,” she says. “My work becomes retaliation against institutions that cling to unidimensional representations of Blackness.”
Regarding her work as a tool for liberation, Arit taps into her subconscious to access the complex ideas behind her work. She crystallizes her personal mythology in Dreamstate, a murky, soulful body of work that centers on the marriage of physical and metaphysical states of being. “Here, physical manifestations of the different dimensions created by my life experience are created,” Arit tells NOT REAL ART. Rendered in rich browns, inky blacks, and shimmering golds, Dreamstate combines surreal imagery with tender ruminations on identity and selfhood. Works like “New World Coming” and “Go Back and Get It” adopt a ritualistic tone, shrouded in the mysticism of history, narrative, and recurring symbols.
“My work is a meeting place for transformation and antiquity,” says Arit, who mends herself by reassembling scattered pieces of her identity through artwork. Her work expands the scope of history, examining the fluidity of Black existence by mapping her body’s intimate sensations onto the boundless corridors of time. “I see how we walked this earth before and after its creation, the building of this earth with our bodies, the frequency of our existence, the expansiveness of our multi-dimensional being,” Arit says. “My work is an ode to the truth and boundlessness of Blackness.”
“My work is an ode to the truth and boundlessness of Blackness.” — Arit Emmanuela Etukudo
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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