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Going home
Frida Orupabo
Artwork 2021
Installation photograph of Frida Orupabo’s collage ‘Going home’, from the ‘Customs’ exhibition in A4’s Gallery, which shows the artwork framed and mounted on a white wall.
Artwork: Frida Orupabo, Going home (2021). Collage with paper pins. 176 × 203.5 cm. Private collection.
Artist Frida Orupabo Title Going home Date 2021 Materials Collage with paper pins Dimensions 176 × 203.5 cm Credit Private collection

“For me, the beginning is always the body,” Orupabo says of her collages. Yet in this work, the two figures are curiously without body, floating or flying against the white expanse of paper on which they are pinned. Calligraphic brushmarks offer the impression of form; only their faces, a pair of sky-blue boots, and a single hand are borrowed from found photographs. Gesturing upwards with pointed index, the hand is raised in a manner reminiscent of Christian iconography’s assertion of the heavens. This, paired with the figures’ insubstantial forms, lends the work a spiritual import; the title’s invocation of return – to myth-making, story-telling – a celestial homecoming.

“Toni Morrison talks about the importance of writing the stories you want to read,” Frida Orupabo says. “That’s a principle I try to work by. If it doesn’t exist, I feel the need to create it.” Pairing photographs from colonial-era archives with images found in contemporary media, and online, Orupabo confronts the ethnographic gaze and the colonial photograph’s legacy as a tool of subjugation of enslaved and colonised peoples. The artist cuts, stitches and pins her source material to create composite figures who are tenderly remade from ‘subject’ into protagonist. Most often, they appear possessed of capacities tending toward the magical – limitless, or unexpectedly constrained, refusing to conform, or collaborate. By excavating existing narratives, Orupabo lends expression to more expansive histories.