Ifeoma U. Anyaeji

Ifeoma U. Anyaeji is a Nigerian neo-traditional artist born in Benin City. Growing up in a society fueled by the dualities of a and repression, where art was yet to be accepted as a “decent” profession, Ifeoma was always intrigued by the intricacies of traditional craft processes and the use of non-conventional materials as art mediums and decided to take-up art as a full-time career exploring her boundaries, as a female artist beyond the conventions of her initial academic training in painting. She envisioned creating forms that communicate with and integrate elements from her environment, using the language of lines to replicate and transcribe societal and political occurrences and her experiences of nature and human interactions within it. Anyaeji later went on to pursue her earlier interest in sculpture and engaging further her passion for nonconventional art making and repurposing discarded objects, an interest stimulated by the constant environmental problems she encountered around her community particularly from non-biodegradable plastic bags and bottles which were in abundance. While experimenting with these environmental pollutants, engaging possible processes of object remaking and reuse especially with non-conventional art making techniques and traditional craft processes, Anyaeji developed a style of art she calls “Plasto-Art”. This is an eco-aesthetic process of remaking, where she transforms her primary medium - used non-biodegradable plastic bags and bottles - by applying her crafting skills in the receding techniques of a traditional Nigerian hair architecture, known as Threading (or Ikpa isi owu  in Igbo), combined with traditional basketry and fabric weaving techniques. Using this technique, with an experimental approach to object-making that most often excludes anticipated conventions, Ifeoma creates very conceptually complex and organic sculptures and installations, with intricate textures and colours, that are not only biographical anthropologies of her direct experiences on matters of Igbo related occurrences but also reference architectural forms, domestic spaces and furnishings, reiterations of other cultural experiences, and discourses about the human body. And by spontaneously engaging the "old", Anyaeji questions the implications of modernity's: consumptive systems of mass accumulation and waste generation, definitions of cultural assimilation and attitude to value, the expiration-date syndrome, and colonial orientations on beauty, authplastenticity, and newness.

By imbuing mundane materials, marks and processes with surprising significance and intricate design, Ifeoma’s works are transformed into extraordinary visual poetry with textures of vibrations and pulsations that allow the viewer a freedom of imagination, interpretation and emotional response. Her use of obsessive repetition shows affinities with the concerns of African traditional textile weaving and hair braiding techniques, and seeks to resurrect gender-categorized craft and decorative art as viable means of artistic expression, as well as political and subversive potential. She inventively combines her materials to form bold compositions that demonstrate persistent experimentation and mastery of technique that go beyond accepted boundaries of the medium, while weaving together personal and collective experiences that celebrates openness to the world and to diversity. Allusions and metaphors abound as she weaves together personal and collective memories with reflections on universal experiences that celebrates openness to the world and to diversity. Now identifying as a Neo-traditional artist, Anyaeji holds an MFA degree in sculpture from Washington University in St Louis, US; a B.A in painting from the University of Benin in Nigeria, where she also teaches and is currently an Interdisciplinary PhD sculpture candidate. She has participated in several exhibitions in Africa, Europe and North America, including in exhibition and has works in private collections and public establishments.

Works in the collection