Crosstown Arts / 1350 Concourse Ave., #Suite 280 November 22, 2019 - February 9, 2020

Olaniyi R. Akindiya Akirash

Artist Statement:

I wake in the depth of night. When I close my eyes, I feel something is blocking my view. I can‘t breathe deep or stand up from my bed. It feels like something is holding me down. I try to turn my head right or left, but it is impossible. I try to scream. I can’t find my voice. I think maybe I am dead, but I still feel that I am breathing. The dead don’t breathe.

I start to pray as millions of questions pump up my mind. I ask myself, have I done well in this world? What should I have done better? All the while my bed and pillow turning to a swimming pool of sweat.

Then suddenly a breeze blows and everything changes. I become myself again. I wake up. I am in a 6’ x 9’ rectangle with a metal rods and a door padlocked. I look at my right someone is standing in another 6’ x 9’, also on my left. This pattern continues ahead of and behind me. What has happened to me? Have I become an animal in a cage? What day is it? What month, what year? I ask, but the only response I get is tears.

Then a voice suddenly says, “You are going back to where you come from. You are being deported.”

I ask again, “Where are my wife, my kids? Can I say bye to them?” No more answers. All I continue hearing is the song of tears from the men, women, and children around me in other 6 x 9’.

You are in a place where there is no way out, nowhere to go. It is your day to have the worst day of your life. When it hurts too much to move, I am here to be the first one to help. I am here to stand between you and chaos. I am the first responder. What you see as you look into the mirror is your guardian angel.

It is a blessing to have another chance to see the sun again, another opportunity to right the wrong.

This exhibition looks deep into the immigration issues that plague our society. It has become a big bone that has stuck in our throat, difficult to chew or swallow. It is a nightmarish, poisonous trauma that has stained our history forever.

Why do we go from here? What will those children that they took from their parents think of us in decades to come?

This exhibition is not to criticize anybody, but to create dialogue to find ways to correct our wrongs; to see how we can come to a better existence with our neighbors. How can we heal the wounds, drain the venom, and live together in mutual respect and dignity?

Walk a Mile in Someone’s Shoes:
As a part of the Asiko exhibition by Akirash, from November 22, 2019 through February 9, 2020, the artist asks members of the community to bring in a pair of new or slightly worn shoes to leave in the gallery. You can drop off your shoes at the Crosstown Arts front desk at the top of the red staircase in the East Atrium. With a permanent marker, Akirash asks each person to write one word on the bottom of each shoe that best describes the original owner. When you drop off your shoes, you will be given a special ticket. With this ticket, you can take another pair of shoes at the opening or during the run of the exhibition. We ask you to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

About the Artist:
Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya (aka Akirash) was born in Lagos, Nigeria and earned his BS in Biochemistry from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta Nigeria and studied Fine and Applied Art at the Institute of Textile Technology Art & Design Lagos. He currently lives and works between Lagos and Austin, Texas, creating work that focuses on fleeting moments that reflect on rural and urban life, the accelerated pace of development, and social infrastructure among other topics. He uses various materials and techniques, including re-purposed items with results ranging from mixed media, sculpture, painting, installation, video, and photography to sound and performance work.

Akirash received the Otis & Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant Award from the Dallas Museum of Art in 2019 to travel to Cameroon, Ghana, and the Bahamas for ongoing research into masks, masquerades, costumes, and symbols as a form of communication rooted in Africa that has spread all over the world.

Other awards include CORE Funding from the Cultural Art Division of Austin TX, the Innovative Artist Award from Mid America Artist Alliance (MAAA / NEA), the Pollock Krasner Foundation Award, the Cultural Initiative & Capacity Building Grant, Culture Alive Austin, The Santo Foundation Grant, and the Commonwealth Connection Award. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube

My work focuses on moments of time, fleeting moments that can be easily forgotten or transformed. Reflecting on rural versus urban life, the accelerated pace of development and social infrastructure. My works and performative activities play around social subjectivities with dramatic components, breaking down conventional barriers.

My work is designed to create comfort, peace, and solace. I believe that art can be a balm to the soul, revealing a quiet inner truth. My art is a reflection of the joys of life, directly inspired by rhythm, harmony, and the movement of daily existence.