Jebila Okongwu critiques stereotypes of Africa and African identity and repurposes them as counterstrategies, drawing on African symbolism, spirituality and history. Socio-political concerns are also fundamental to his art.
Okongwu often works with banana boxes, having observed that their cliched slogans and tropical graphics articulate an ‘exotic’ provenance, much like the exoticisation of African bodies from an ethnocentric perspective. When these boxes are shipped to the West from Africa, the Caribbean and South America, the old routes of slavery are retraced, accentuating existing patterns of trade, migration and exploitation.
A recent motif in Okongwu’s work is the volcano. Symbols of power and violence, they are also employed as a metaphor to suggest growing social unrest, insurrection against social injustice and hint at the possibility of apocalypse or revolution.
Prominent institutions that have hosted exhibitions of the artist include the American Academy in Rome (2015), the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples (2014), and the MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome (2013).
The artists lives and works in Rome.