Njideka Akunyili Crosby was born in 1983 in Enugu Nigeria. Her father was a surgeon and her mother was a professor of pharmacology at the University of Nigeria. They highly valued education and sent her and her 5 siblings to the best schools possible. At age 10, she was sent to Queen’s College boarding school (one of the best in the country) which was 9 hours away from her parents. A few years later, her mother was able to get green cards for her and her sister to study in America. They moved to Philadelphia where she took an art class while working on her undergraduate work for a medical degree. She did not get into the medical school she wanted to attend, but found that her interest had changed to art. She changed her course of study and ultimately received a Masters in Fine Art from Yale in 2011.

During her studies she met and married musical artist, Justin Crosby and had a son, Jideora, in 2016. In the last nine years, Njideka has won many prestigious prizes and fellowships for her art, including being named the artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and was named a 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Her primary mediums include collage, photo transfer, acrylic paint, charcoal, fabric, and colored pencil. She layers paint, with the collage elements to create an intricate scene that shows both a domestic moment and the biographical information that creates those moments. Njideka often portrays herself and family members in her work and uses copies of the photos her family has in their single family album. She says that this is her most treasured belonging. She also uses “portrait fabric” which is made for weddings, burials, campaigns or any important life events in Africa. This creates a complex story for each scene she paints. She lays out what she wants to do in an initial sketch, then chooses the media to add and problem solves how to best use it in the space. Crosby says it takes about 12 sketches to get to the final piece where everything is laid out well together. It is an incredibly time consuming process each painting takes an average of three month of daily, full time work.

Today we will create our own multimedia scene. You may want to pick an average moment from your life, maybe including family members like Njideka does.

1. Choose your scene and sketch it on the card stock. Go over the lines if needed to make sure they are fairly bold.

2. Use the magazine pages and scrapbook paper to add interesting elements to your design. Trim them to the size and shape needed then glue them down.

3. Now use the colored pencils and pastels to tie everything together and add in details.