One of the earliest recorded U.S. slave rebellions occurred off the coast of Georgia in 1803 when captured Igbos (people of the ethnic group located in what is now the southeastern region of Nigeria) ran their slave ship aground and committed a mass-suicidal drowning. When the surviving slave captains went to recover the bodies, several were strangely unaccounted for. What is more mystifying is that a few bystanders claimed to have witnessed the Igbos fly home. From this harrowing event emerged the legend of the “flying African.”
In my work, “As Above” I employ the myth as a visual analytic to connect historical and contemporary instances of displacement in my family and extended bloodline. In the painting my Igbo father is depicted standing in the water that drowned his ancestors. His poses illustrate the ancient principle “As Above so Below” that is referenced in the title: in one form he bows; in the other he rises.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Marcela Adeze Okeke is a Chicago artist whose work explores the intimacy of understanding oneself, family and ancestry. Okeke has shown in the Museum of Science and Industry, Woman Made Gallery, Arc Gallery, Holy Art Gallery in London, Hairpins Art Center, FOURTUNEHOUSE Art Center and other local and online galleries. Additionally, their work has been published in New American Paintings, Braided Magazine, North by Northwestern and Blackboard Magazine. Okeke has also done commissioned work for several Chicago institutions and storefronts, such as Podlasie Nightclub, Record Breakers and Gigi’s Playhouse.
© Marcela Adeze Okeke