Njideka Akunyili Crosby


Hello WORriors, it’s #WomanCrushWednessday, and our Woman Crush is Njideka Crosby Akunyili!

Born in Enugu, Nigeria, Akunyili Crosby is a visual artist based in Los Angeles, California. She was just 10 years old, when she moved to, Lagos, to attend one of the country’s most prestigious boarding schools, Queens College. With this, her first taste of a multicultural – the  Nigerian, British, and American popular culture was born, which contributed to the similarities between her work and the work of pop-culture artists.

It is interesting to note that she is the daughter of the late Dora Akunyili who was the Director-General of the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Even with a well known mother in Nigeria, Akunyili Crosby has made a name for herself by clearly taking her part in the artistic world. She has won multiple award an today, her name is known not only in Nigeria, but in the United States and other parts of the world as well.

A portrait of Ms. Akunyili Crosby with layered images, made in collaboration with the artist.

A portrait above of Ms. Akunyili Crosby with layered images, made in collaboration with the artist. Photo: Photo And Illustration: Maxine Helfman For The Wall Street Journal.

She adds photo transfers and fabrics to bring in different aspects such as hair styles, fashions, architecture, and furnishings from the two cultures.


Predecessors (left panel), 2013, Acrylic, transfers, colored pencil and charcoal on paper, 7 ft. × 7 ft.
Predecessors (right panel), 2013, Acrylic, transfers, colored pencil and charcoal on paper, 7 ft. × 7 ft.

Akunyili Crosby studied biology and art at Swarthmore College, where she met her  husband and fellow artist Justin Crosby. She pursued her MFA at Yale, which is when her artistic breakthrough occurred.

“The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” Might Not Hold True For Much Longer, 2013, Acrylic and transfers on paper, 5.5 ft. × 7 ft. Courtesy of the artist

She adds colourful paint, fabrics, acrylic, photos, cut-outs from Nollywood films, advertisements, and Nigerian fashion magazines, to create vibrant paintings and collages that dance across the borders of her different identities. She is influenced by writer Chinua Achebe who brings the English language to fit his culture. In an interview with W Magazine, Akunyili Crosby explained that she uses an approach similar to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, who sometimes portrays characters speaking in their own dialects, which remains untranslated, you need to search for its true meaning by yourself, something also similar to what Chimamanda Adichie books does.

In her work, Akunyili Crosby cracks English and uses it to create a transcultural, syncretic space.

We celebrate Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

Ex-First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama paid a visit to Njideka Akunyili Crosby at her studio.

US-based, Njideka, one of the daughters of the late NAFDAC boss, Dora Akunyili made headlines when her 2017 botanical painting, titled “Bush Babies”, sold for $3.4 million USD.

Her sister, Chidiogo shared the photo with the caption: So this just happened! Casual Saturday in the Akunyili Crosby family. When Michelle Obama pays a visit to your studio! 🌞 Me to my sister, “if it could come up, make sure to tell her about the book.” 🙈

Toyin Ojih Odutola has gained a lot of popularity over the years for her pen ink drawings, which raise pertinent questions about the construct of blackness. Now, with a recent sale of one of her stunning pieces, she’s officially the third highest selling Nigerian artist of all time. 

After moving from Nigeria to America at the age of five, Ojih Odutola became aware of her blackness and began questioning her identity. Due to the shock of this transition, she used art as a coping mechanism, and over time, it transformed into an “investigative, learning activity” for her. 

Speaking with Vogue about how art helped her escape, Odutola said:

“I was obsessed, capturing everything I saw and being fascinated with the incredibly simple task of looking at something and transmitting it onto paper. It’s an immediate magic.”

Yesterday at the Sotheby’s, Toyin sold one of her fantastic drawings, titled ‘Compound Leaf’, for £471,000 (roughly N215 million), making her the 3rd highest selling Nigerian artist of all time — behind fellow female artist, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and the legendary Ben Enwonwu.

Check out more of her work right here: 

Credit: konbini.com

In a report by Wall Street Journal, Njideka‘s highest selling artwork at the moment is a 2017 botanical piece named ‘Bush Babies.’

According to the report, New York based art company dealer, Sotheby’s estimated that the ‘Bush Babies,’ would sell for up to $800,000 but ended up selling for $3.4 million.

The ‘Bush Babies’ artwork was sold during an auction at the Christie’s in London, United Kingdom.

The artist, who once sold artworks for  $3,000 apiece has joined the leagues of top-flight artists in United States of America and United Kingdom.

It was also reported that least 20 public museums are on a waiting list for works which Njideka hasn’t painted yet.

At 35 years old, Crosby from Eastern Nigeria, has since been awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

The MacArthur Fellowship, also referred to as the Genius Grant, awards $625,000 to artists, writers, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and people from all works of life who have shown exceptional creativity.

The grant is doled out in instalments, made over a period of five years.

Aside the grant, Njideka has also been decorated with honours for her artworks by the New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and London’s Tate Modernhave come calling.

Credit: Pulse