Bukola Koiki MFA Applied Craft + Design Practicum 2015
Grow Where You Are Planted: An Immigrant’s Circumnutation Between Worlds
Grow Where You Are Planted is a visual representation of the experiences of cultural hybridity by people who have left the country and cultures of their birth to make a home in another place. It explores the navigation of the threshold — the liminal space — between the cultural expectations of a birth country and the new challenges of an adopted one. Geles, headwraps worn as part of traditional costumes during special occasions among the Yoruba women of Western Nigeria (the artist’s place of birth), act as both a metaphor for the traditional expectations and expected perfection of womanhood in Nigerian culture and as simulacra of immigrant West African women. Each Gele’s perfectly elegant surface is disrupted by strands of yarn — representational of a woman’s hair — that would otherwise be covered by these head wraps. This disruption serves as an expression of rebellion, a revealing of the woman’s true self in the face of cultural pressures to be the perfect African girl, and the perfect American girl as well.
These long strands of yarn are hand wrapped in colorful bamboo cord which represents an expression of a culturally specific hair style called threading in which sections of hair are meticulously wrapped with black rubber or black cotton string. In this work, the thread bound hair is a physical representation of cultural pressures. However, this technique is bastardized with the use of neon colored thread as opposed to the usual black thread. This subversion and the subsequent unraveling of the cord, embodies personal and situational challenges to these traditional roles. The threaded strands interact with the environment and architecture of the installation space in spiraling actions that mimic a climbing plant’s tendrils. A metaphor for how immigrants too must reach out and be vulnerable in order to find support in their new homes. As the viewer makes their way through the installation their bodies interact with the human scale Geles, experiencing the world from their perspective and witnessing their journey.