Words by John Bergin
Visuals by Felton Kizer
Visual Artist Creating Her Future through Her Family’s Past
Alexandria Eregbu is an artist who coaxes history into the present. Her work lives and moves with an energy of storied weight; it is the sort of visual art that only shows its petals in full bloom as one looks longer and longer.
Born in Chicago, Eregbu moved to Ames, Iowa when she was five and stayed there until she graduated high school. Although her family was artistic, her parents always put more value in book smarts and athletic ability, and pushed her to excel in those fields. In deciding to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus on fashion, Eregbu started to pursue art as an extension of herself with nothing holding her back.
“My sports background, I think that’s really what got me transitioning into performance art, because I had already had a relationship with my body and movement to some capacity,” says Eregbu, while reflecting on her childhood. It’s reflections like this that pepper her art with power. She holds family and her family’s history close to the chest. Her kin is an incredibly strong inspiration for her, whether it be via memory, handed down textile, or photographs of relatives.
To Eregbu, there is a deep well of knowledge to drink from when it comes to family: “In terms of understanding my place in the world, I’ve learned so much from my familial histories.”
With her familial inspiration inherent, Eregbu’s work holds the weight of the past and the present. With African print textiles and imagery that tugs at the heartstrings of African Americans across the world, Eregbu knows that to move forward, we must first understand our past.
Eregbu attempts to answer her own questions of the future by marrying history with her understanding of the present. In reconciling time, she says, “I really hope that as I continue to move through this investigation of these histories, that I can encourage other people to sort of do the same.”
Eregbu’s work comes from a place of discovering oneself. Whether this discovery takes place in history, in fabric, in installation, or in simple commitments to personal truth, the story of oneself is the strongest any person can tell. “I think it’s important that we as artists communicate that, because our communication, our sense of authenticity, is what helps create space for us to move authentically as individuals throughout the world,” Eregbu says.
There is a hallowed power to writing one’s own story. Eregbu, with page upon page of ancestral history to scour and with her own story to dwell upon, still has a lot to say.