In Opposite Styles, 2 African Artists Capture the Same Spirit

At first glance, the works of Marcellina Akpojotor and Sungi Mlengeya seemingly have nothing in common. Ms. Akpojotor's bright canvases are infused with color and textiles, and Ms. Mlengeya creates stripped-down black-and-white works that are stunning in their simplicity.

"One is more minimalist, while the other is loaded with craftsmanship, with skill, with nuance, with maybe a bit more overt messaging but also equally well done," said Azu Nwagbogu, the founder and director of the Africa Artists' Foundation in Lagos, Nigeria. "The key thing is they both work with conviction and competence."


The Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came across Ms. Akpojotor's work online and was "immediately struck" by what she saw. "It stood out in its confidence and had a certain quality of emotional truth, Ms. Adichie wrote in an email, adding that the work she owns hangs on the living room wall in her home in Lagos.

"I'm drawn to work that seems able to have competing qualities at the same time, which is a sign of true complexity - her work is very bold and also very subtle."

September 20, 2022