Artist Takeover: Arit Emmanuela Etukudo
23 June 2020
New Art Exchange introduces Arit Emmanuela Etukudo, a Nigerian-American multi-media artist whose practice inserts the narrative of Afrofuturism by deconstructing the known world and challenging the modern constructs of how the black body is allowed to exist.
She earned her BA from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Cinematic arts. She won Best experimental film at the Indie Capitol awards in 2016 for her short film "Blackbird"; which went on to be screened in multiple locations and nominated for a Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Prize.
In 2017 she moved to the UK where she pursued her MFA in Fine art at Nottingham Trent University and studied on Erasmus at École supérieure d'art et de design TALM. While in Europe. She exhibited her work at various locations across the UK and US. She won the NAE Future Exhibition Prize for her work "MotherTongue" and will have a solo exhibition at New Art Exchange in 2021.
This is the documentation of Arit's takeover for NAE's Instagram channel from 23 - 26 June 2020.
Image: From here I saw what happened and I cried. Carrie Mae Weems. 1995-1996, toned prints. 39.5x29.5 in.
I heard the stories of my people dying
saw my people dying
saw bodies hanging from trees
faces smashed in cement
saw the broken spines
broken bodies laid in beds.
Heard the broken cries,
the shake in the voice,
heard the loss as it happened,
heard the call of the sirens as they pulled us under while cutting throat from body.
For 400 years.
Yet the hands still ravenous, still quaking with need, still grabbing and groping
for what they will never understand the taste of.
From birth your mouth was forced into womb,
birthright replaced by requiem.
Carried this on our backs, like sacred hymn.
I saw the sin sung down flesh,
the life peeled from roots,
the body turned to earth.
Before the blood was spilled
we already recognized the smell.
image: y/our bare skin
Then all at once, the whole world pointed at my wounds as I heard the names of all the martyrs they helped create. It's so scary feeling exposed and invisible at the same time. I became a frozen body with soft voice, aching back, punctured heart, and glass breath. Trauma has a way of robbing the body. I was supposed to be an artist, creating in times of uncertainty, taking on my responsibility of speaking up for what I believe in, but the built up tension in my back and belly blocked my genius. My body felt limited and how painful it is to feel this when my work is about doing the opposite. Defying limits, living outside perceptions, standing up, being tall, holding authority. I create for moments like this, but it is in moments like this when the trauma is activated that it is hard for me to create. Somedays are harder than others and my mouth becomes a womb that must continuously birth reasons for why I deserve to be alive, why people who look like me deserved to be alive. It is painful and taxing and long and more often than not falls on combative ears. In order for me to continue creating I find methods of deactivating this trauma.
Movement is a mode of transportation, a point of relief and revolution, a place for meditation, inspiration, rebirth and awakening. It is both pre and post human. Timeless. Magical. I use movement to connect to my sensuality, to the owness of my body. It's a way of releasing the trauma. Bending my back, squeezing my belly in and out, stretching my arms, letting my body flow. I use movement at times when I need to be in tune with and in acceptance of my softness and fragility. Accepting that I am a soft organic body that needs to be cared for, that can break just as easily as it can build. Accepting that this is my body, this is my skin, my gender, my sexuality, this is where my genius is. This practice of floating myself out of my stagnation gives me the space to harness my creativity. In my movements I ask myself where the tension is in my body and where it came from, what needs to be released and what needs to be examined, what parts are hungry, what parts am I greatful for.
Here is a playlist of some songs that I use during my movement practice: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4tHRgd5Fxq87uOev1H3Dje
Image: Go back and get it
I'm ending this residency with my piece "Go back and get it" from a collection that I'm currently creating. The collection speaks on Sankofa, a metaphorical symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana, which is the belief that in order to move forward and plan for the future it is necessary to retrieve the past. The collection is about a journey into the past through the self, a repossession of lost identity and healing from trauma. A deep wound has been dug into deeper these couple of months. Black people have suffered a lifetime length of trauma and pain, so even after all the laws and reforms are passed and "justice" is served (whenever that happens), we need to be able to heal from the history and cutoff generational trauma. In order to do that we must first understand it.