Begun in 2014, Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s ongoing series, The Beautyful Ones is comprised of portraits of Nigerian children, including members of the artist’s family, derived from personal photographs and, more recently, from images taken during her frequent visits to Nigeria, where Akunyili Crosby lived until the age of sixteen.
Its title is taken from the 1968 novel by the Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, a book whose influence endured during the artist’s adolescence in the 1990s and is still felt today. In it, the author laments the lost idealism of a generation in the 1960s for a better Africa, post-independence.
In, The Beautyful Ones the artist reinstates this optimism in her own and subsequent generations while offering a powerful perspective on the complexities of a contemporary diasporic experience.
Crosby is one of the most distinctive voices of her generation, and this book, only the second publication on the Los-Angeles based artist. It features extensive illustrations of works in the series and an essay by Siddhartha Mitter, who, reflecting on the work’s complex history, weaves together the social, cultural, personal and political strands of its making.
Published on the occasion of the exhibition, Njideka Akunyili Crosby: The Beautyful Ones at Victoria Miro, Venice (8 May – 13 July 2019).