Yam, on Sunday
Yam, on Sunday
Mixed media sculpture [Installation at Petit Village, 61 Deptford High Street, SE8 4AA]
Silver Yams Everywhere
Digital collage [Billboard at Deptford Creek Canal, Creek Road, SE8 3GW]
Barbara Majek’s research explores the tensions between individual and collective identities with a focus on the ‘Black’ identity across the African Diaspora. Yoruba mythology and storytelling, and oral history traditions have shaped the artist’s approach. Her practice engages with indigenous knowledge systems and how they are preserved, revitalised, reinvented, shared, and practised for transformational healing.
The two sculptures made from refashioned traditional Nigerian cooking pots that are part of the installation Yams, on Sunday are stand-ins for Majek’s personal biography as a sibling in a family of twins. The Yorubas believe in specific ceremonies and offerings to celebrate the birth of twins. In her mother’s role as Iya Ibeji (mother of twins), she adopted the indigenous Yoruba tradition where the family eat Ẹ̀wà or “Ẹ̀wà Ìbejì” (beans/beans twins) on Saturday and Yam on Sunday. Yoruba people have one of the world’s highest rates of twin birth and food such as yams and beans have been linked to the cause of this phenomenon. Majek’s research into the circularity of this link between twins and yams within the Yoruba tradition forms the basis of her digital collage Silver Yams Everywhere.
Majek’s work draws from Yoruba Cosmology systems and beliefs of the physical and material world whereby both worlds are two sides of the same coin and reality is an interface of spirit and matter. It is believed that humans are born twice; physically and with a spiritual counterpart. Twins in Yoruba mythology embody the same duality in physical form—the reason why the birth of twins is viewed as sacred, mysterious, and extraordinary. These multiple meanings and beliefs are ever-present, linking to notions of oneness and circularity of time in Yoruba thought.
Majek’s work draws out thoughts on ‘mothering’ and the ‘caretaker’ identity across the African diaspora and how often women and, specifically, mothers are asked to negotiate their health for the sake of nourishing their families and communities. The pots highlight the tensions and health risks of cooking yam with sugar and traditional outdoor cooking. Their practical usage and presence in Yams, on Sunday in Majek’s installation on Deptford High Street brings to light Deptford’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and how sugar has shaped the city of London, speaking to the complex identities of the African diaspora.
Yams, on Sunday and Silver Yams Everywhere are Deptford X Commissions
Installation: Petit Village, 61 Deptford High St, SE8 4AF
Barbara Majek is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice-based research explores the tensions between individual and collective identities. With focus on the ‘Black’ identity across the African Diaspora, Yoruba mythology has shaped her approach to storytelling as this relates to African diasporic experiences. Exploring the circularity of time and oneness, she is interested in breaking down distinctions between material and immaterial.
Image credit: Barbara Majek, Yam, on Sunday and Silver Yams Everywhere, 2022. Photos by Corey Bartle-Sanderson. Barbara Majek, Yam, on Sunday, 2022. Photos by Nelta Kasparian.