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Art at Bainbridge – Victor Ekpuk: Language and Lineage 

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Victor Ekpuk: Language and Lineage will be on view at an Open House at Art at Bainbridge from Saturday, July 22, 2023  to Sunday, October 8, 2023. 

Victor Ekpuk, In Deep Water, ca. 2012, printed 2023, Digital drawing printed on canvas, 223.5 × 254 cm
Image courtesy of the artist

Victor Ekpuk: Language and Lineage tracks the inspiration Ekpuk has taken from Nsibidi along the artistic journey that brought him from Nigeria to Washington, DC. The exhibition explores various themes that have unfolded in Ekpuk’s work over the last three decades. Fascinated by the aesthetics and the power of Nsibidi ideograms to convey complex ideas, Ekpuk began experimenting with the language. 

Born in 1964, Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk is internationally renowned for his highly expressive multimedia works of art influenced by Nsibidi, an ancient communication system from southern Nigeria and northwest Cameroon with a rich ideographic script. Ekpuk celebrates the syncretism of our multicultural societies using Nsibidi as well as characters borrowed from other cultures and his own vibrant systems of expression. In some instances, the artist’s drawings eloquently articulate his elaborate visual language to comment on political oppression, social issues, and police brutality. The reduced palette also gestures toward pictures that Ekpuk executed in his first occupation as a newspaper illustrator. 

Untitled, 2020, Ink and gouache on handmade paper, AB-2023-45
Image courtesy of the artist

The exhibition, Language and Lineage, also presents the artist’s bold and dramatic series of heads, which serve as vessels for personal memory and knowledge—the beloved immaterial archives that migrants carry with them—as well as live palimpsests in which cultural traditions and new life experiences collide.  

Victor Ekpuk’s work has been shown at numerous museums and institutions around the world, including the New Museum in New York, NY; the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC; the Dakar Biennial in Senegal; the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris; the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, NY; Somerset House in London; and the 12th Havana Biennial in Cuba. Ekpuk’s work can be found in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; and the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. 

Author

Iyanuoluwa Adenle is a graduate of Linguistics and African Languages from Obafemi Awolowo University. She is a creative writer and art enthusiast with publications in several journals. She is a writer at Art News Africa.

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