My work is an exploration of collective memory and identity while examining and engaging the histories of the African diaspora and how they are preserved and passed down through cultural traditions. Working in mediums inspired by West African craft and Yoruba mythology and ritual practices, my work serves as a vessel chronicling Black experiences, memories, oral histories, and place of belonging. My work is structured though historical research, intergenerational oral traditions, and personal experience, concentrated on Black female subjectivity.
Merryn Omotayo Alaka also collaborates with Sam Fresquez to produce immersive spaces that reference rituals of self expression and public representation. Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez construct their intriguing worlds from personal experience: the installation series titled It’s Mine I Bought It, a nod to the Princess Nokia song Mine, both revels in the ways that Black and Brown women wear their hair and rejects the incessant interrogation of these traditions. Omotayo Alaka and Fresquez both acknowledge as formative in their own lives the elaborate rituals of hairdressing, the use of synthetic hair as a facet of self-expression, and the fact that society imposes strict expectations upon the hair and appearance of Black and Brown women in public spaces.
In considering their installation of multiple floor-length suspensions of synthetic hair, each meticulously gathered into tassel, bubble, and chandelier forms, Omotayo Alaka says, “Because of the scale and material, we are hoping that viewers have a physical relationship with the sculptures…we want the feminine body to be represented and seen here.” These representative objects tend to transform a space, says Fresquez, “They become a landscape, and it really becomes its own world.”
Merryn Omotayo Alaka in Collaboration with Sam Fresquez