Merryn Omotayo Alaka is Phoenix based multi-media artist. She holds a BFA in printmaking from Arizona State University. Her work, inspired by both West African textiles and Black feminism, includes lithographs, graphic textile design, jewelry, and large-scale sculptures. Alaka assesses the material culture of physical objects such as family heirlooms, jewelry, hair, and fabric as a way to address subjective cultural and racial perspectives. She uses contemporary observations of class and race combined her Nigerian American heritage.
Alaka has exhibited her work nationally and most recently showed work in the 2018 Arizona Biennial. Since 2018 Alaka has worked as the co-curator and assistant gallery manager at a Phoenix based gallery, Modified Arts. In February of 2019 she curated Americana, a political exhibition which examined race, class, and cultural identity.
The Yoruba of Nigeria say, ‘A river that forgets its source will surely run dry.’
Influenced by material culture and my Yoruba/American heritage, my work draws its inspiration from the relationships shared between my ancestry, objects and cultural materials. Crafting work through the use of hair, textiles, metals, and printmaking has facilitated the exploration of forms of cultural expression. Hair, as a medium and material, employs a cultural perspective. Throughout my sculptural work, the use of hair has allowed me to create a chronicle of the complexities and multifaceted history beyond its superficial appearance. Textiles, as one of the oldest forms of human activity and manufacturing, hold powerful connections to history, politics, creative expression, and family/cultural identity. By using patterns reminiscent of textiles in my 2D works, it allows further analysis of the bridge between the familiar and unfamiliar aspects of daily life, and cultural understanding. Fashioning metals to act as forms of ornamentation evoke a legacy of the history of adornment. I am able to relate to my families lineage through mementos like accessories and objects passed down through generations. I view the use of these materials as representations of power, prestige, and pride; they act as a way to address subjective cultural and political perspectives. With strong intention, my work creates a powerful narrative of dualities often faced when confronting a multicultural identity.