Akunyili Crosby

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

She // Her // Hers

[ID: Njideka, a Black woman with short dark hair, stands against a white background. She wears an emerald green top, yellow dangling earrings and smiles slightly at the camera.]

Painter and Mixed Media Artist
Los Angeles, CA
2021 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in 1983 in Enugu, Nigeria, and didn’t leave her small homogeneous town until moving to the metropolis of Lagos in 1993. Crosby grew up in a Nigeria that was acculturated to and independent from British colonial rule. At age sixteen, her family won the US green card lottery, and she immigrated to the United States for undergraduate studies. She earned a BFA from Swarthmore College in 2004 and an MFA from Yale University in 2011. After fifteen years in various East Coast cities, she moved to Los Angeles, where she currently resides.

Living in different countries and cities has proved formative to her work. She uses her transcultural experience as a Nigerian (bicoastal) American, underpinned by art historical and literary influences, to reflect the multilocal, multicultural nature of both contemporary African cities and US immigrant life. Crosby’s work interweaves painting, drawing, printmaking, and collage (fabric and photo) on paper. She transfers snapshots of and collages fabrics from contemporary Nigerian life into painted, loosely autobiographical scenes, contrasting her childhood in Nigeria with her adult life in America with her white American husband, and so on. The photos she uses evince the vestiges of British presence in Nigeria and/or the recent permeation of American popular culture in Nigeria. Similarly, the African fabrics carry a complicated history of colonial commerce.

She has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Crosby is a 2017 MacArthur Fellow and was honored as one of the Financial Times’ 2016 Women of the Year.

Portrait photo by Brigitte Sire.

  • Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
    Home: As You See Me, 2017. Acrylic, transfers, colored pencil, charcoal, collage, and commemorative fabric on paper, dimensions 84 × 84 inches. Photo by Brian Forrest; courtesy Victoria Miro and David Zwirner Gallery.
    [ID: A parlor with two adjacent rooms with printed walls and matching caramel couches. Photos of a Nigerian family and Nigerian soldier hang, and one room's walls have a portrait of Dora Akunyili, a Black woman in a formal headwrap and jewelry, and the phrase SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE repeated in a pattern.]
  • Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
    Portals, 2016. Acrylic, transfers, colored pencil, collage and commemorative fabric on paper, dimensions 84 × 105 inches. Photo by Bill Orcutt; courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art.
    [ID: In a room extending across a diptych, a pensive Black woman sits at a table surrounded by surfaces patterened with portratist of Black people. The woman has short hair and wears a yellow dress and heels.]
  • Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby
    Mama, Mummy and Mamma (Predecessors #2), 2014. Acrylic, color pencil, charcoal and transfers on paper, dimensions 84 × 144 inches. Photo by Mario Todeschini; courtesy Victoria Miro and David Zwirner Gallery.
    [ID: A Black woman sits at a kitchen table where pots, plates, and framed photos are displayed. The woman leans on the table in a head scarf and shirt and looks pensively. Photos of Black figures decorate the background room.]
Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby Artwork by Njideka Akunyili Crosby