“I have Croatian, Nigerian and Jamaican heritage but I grew up in Cremona, in Northern Italy, which was not an easy place to spend my childhood and adolescence. In the 1980s, I was the second mixed-race child born and raised in that city. Because of this there weren’t any role models for me to look up to as a teenager and young woman.
The encounter between African and European culture plays a big role in my art; this is why I mostly use a black and white color spectrum and make references to “mixed” historical figures, like African-Italian partisans during WWII. I want to shed light on these people, as my contribution to people like me, who always looked for representation and role models but could not find any. It’s a way to give back to the African-Italian community that feels voiceless and unrepresented.
While growing up, I felt pressured to define myself either as exclusively African or Italian, and I did not want to choose one culture over another. Sometimes when I am in Italy, locals make comments about my Italian proficiency. “You speak Italian so well!” to which I used to reply, in a more tongue-in-cheek tone, “Well, you too!” Funny enough, they are the ones who get the most offended!
I have been living in Germany for eight years now, first in Hannover and then in Berlin. Here in the capital, artists are given a lot of space and support to express themselves. The problems that I encounter here revolve around my professional goals as an artist - such as earning enough to invest in installation and exhibits - not my ethnicity.
‘Onajite’ is my Nigerian name which means 'this is enough.' And yet, everything I have experienced so far does not seem to be enough! I can’t see myself staying in Europe for long. I am seriously considering moving to Lagos, Nigeria, where my father is from, for some time. I would like to explore my origins and expand my knowledge.
There is a set of ancient Nigerian ideograms that, back in the day, was only passed down from one generation of shamans to another and that represented a secret language forbidden to women. As a female African-Italian artist, I decided to include them in my artwork by blending Nigerian themes with Western aesthetics and styles.
I would like to create a sort of cultural bridge between Italy, Germany and Nigeria and put these two worlds in contact. Being a woman and an artist with an African background makes me believe that I have to show the complexity and the beauty of diversity.”