Rising star: Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili

Updated 12:35 PM ET, Fri January 25, 2013
Akunyili 5 Umezebi Street, New Haven, EnuguAkunyili 5 Umezebi Street, New Haven, Enugu
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"This was a scene of a birthday party at my neighbours' house," said Akunyili. "I enjoyed putting this image together and thinking of the musicality of the arms, legs and heads as they moved across the page." She added: "I got my MFA at Yale in New Haven and it took a few weeks of being in New Haven before I realized that it shared the same name with the town where I grew up. It wasn't immediately evident to me because we pronounce New Haven, Enugu very differently." Njideka Akunyili
Akunyili is part of the Igbo tribe, where a traditional wedding involves the bride kneeling as she gives a cup of palm wine to her new husband. "I transferred and collaged images from my wedding into a lot of my work and decided to make a piece about this exchange," she said. Njideka Akunyili
"The title is from a Nigerian song that was very popular when I was growing up," said Akunyili. "Images of the record cover are transferred into the piece. "I was listening to a lot of old school Nigerian music before I made this piece and also talking with some Nigerians about the nostalgia evoked by these songs."
"Nyado is something that hangs around your neck and could weigh you down," said Akunyili. "The title references a short story 'The Thing Around Your Neck' by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. "It's the story of a young Nigerian girl who relocated to the U.S. but is still connected to home. The mysterious thing hangs around her neck during her whole stay and doesn't begin to let go until she buys her ticket to return home." Njideka Akunyili
"This was the first multiple figure piece I did," said Akunyili. "I had done so many two person compositions at this point that I wanted to challenge myself to figure out how to orchestrate a rectangle when there are multiple bodies to consider. "The image is of a dance club and it was influenced by Malick Sidibe's photographs of dancing in Mali. I really responded to the energy in the Sidibe pictures." Njideka Ayunyili
Like most of Akunyili's works, this 2011 piece is on paper using a combination of paint, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage and photocopy transfers. Njideka Akunyili
Many of Akunyili's works show intimate scenes between a black woman and a white man, showing how her native culture meets her life in America. Njideka Akunyili