Uche Okpa-Iroha - Nigeria

Musée National du Mali

The Plantation Boy (2012)

Completed during the final year of Uche Okpa- Iroha’s two-year residency at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, The Plantation Boy project consists of two series of images that collectively examine the power structures of race and the hegemony of Western culture, signaling central concerns in Okpa-Iroha’s recent artistic practice. The title situates the work within the black and African quest for freedom and self-determination that arose in the slave plantation era and continues to impact the lives of black subjects globally.

In The Plantation Boy Okpa-Iroha meticulously places himself in the frame of the image, through strategies of reconstruction and reenactment. The artist intervenes in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 Hollywood movie The Godfather by isolating and appropriating forty original film stills from the seminal movie. Through a process of digital reconstruction, the artist disrupts an iconic Hollywood image with the presence of an African man amongst the familial gangs of an Italian-American subculture. Addressing the politics of representation in Western cinema that is marked by a striking absence of black bodies, Okpa-Iroha challenges stereotypical and subservient representations of African identity by taking center stage.

In his series of photographic reenactments, Ok- pa-Iroha further takes charge of his own image with his restaging of dramatic tableaux inspired by the film. Through performative gestures, both series broach the relationship between time and both still and moving images. By selecting and extracting imagery from The Godfather, Okpa-Iroha lays bare the film’s system of representation, interjects a powerful redress of history, and sets an alternative story in motion.

Born in 1972 in Enugu, Nigeria –
Lives in Lagos

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali