The African Doll, oil on canvas, 39" x 39"
This work is all about my profound and deep appreciation for the beauty of the African child. It is also about how the African Child brought up in Diaspora has to struggle between two cultural values: where they are, and where they are from.The painting, which is inspired by my daughter, is of the purity and beauty that our African children possess. Sometimes when an African is brought up by Africans in Diaspora, they tend to loose their rich cultural values and the core fabric of their traditional beliefs, the kind of people they are and what makes them who they are. For the black young girls, most of them get influenced by "Barbie"- it's the popular image of the typical Oyibo model doll. And I noticed from research, that there weren't many black cultural beautiful dolls for our Black girls to see or some cases any at all to play with and emulate. Hence this piece, which I have posed my beautiful daughter not with a Barbie doll but with a traditional black doll, which I hope will give, not only her but the generation coming a sense of identity and belonging.
I have worked with a palette of only four colours to complete this painting, it's is influenced by the great Swedish painter, Anders Zorn, who mostly used just four colours, Titanium White, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black. Even though these colours are from Anders Zorn, I see them African in every sense and that's why I have adapted that into my paintings. The background effects are influenced from Mark Rothko, who had in one of his talks as a basic ingredient for a successful painting to be, "Tension, either conflict or curbed desire". The dark and light patches in the background represent that bit of conflict. The dark patches signifying her roots and the light patches her environment. An African child brought up in Diaspora faces, whether to choose the influence of the society where they are or to be influenced by the culture of where they are originally from.
The African doll therefore addresses the struggle, the desire, the exploration and the pure investigation that the African child faces in while being brought up in Diaspora. It's almost a case of, "to be" or "not to be". To accept the cultural and traditional concepts of being black in a foreign land of to be influenced by the current winds and torrents of the environment where they are being brought up.