The 26th of August 2022 saw the launch of ‘Nni Bu Ogwu (Food is Medicine),’ an online archive by interdisciplinary artist, designer, researcher, and PhD student Chiizii that seeks to interrogate how Igbo Nigerians have used art to exchange food information.
Chiizii’s work centres around Igbo, Nigerian and African experiences and histories, and ‘Nni Bu Ogwu’ is part of her current research that aims to establish the significance of art in Igbo food culture. The project, which was developed as part of Chiizii’s Guest Projects Digital residency with the Yinka Shonibare Foundation, presents the study’s findings through colourful multimedia artworks, including drawings, collages, audio, a soundtrack, recipes, and TikTok-inspired short-form videos.
“This archive is my contribution to community and legacy. It’s an opportunity to collate information that is otherwise very difficult to access and make it available not only to Igbo people who may be trying to find a deeper connection to their culture but also to anyone who is interested in interrogating their food history,” says Chiizii.
Each of the pieces in the ‘Nni Bu Ogwu’ collection serves as a carrier of information about the items, movements and imagery associated with Nigerian Igbo food culture. For example, ‘Ofe Nsala’ (2019) is a multimedia illustration of the Onitsha Igbo practice of consuming Ofe Nsala (nsala soup) after childbirth, while ‘ARU’ (2019) guides viewers on how to identify body parts in the Igbo language.
Chiizii’s continuously evolving ‘Nni Bu Ogwu’ online platform expresses the information she’s discovered about Igbo food culture in art format while investigating how art can be used as a tool for educational enrichment. This investigation into educational potential is why the archive takes an open-source format: it is part of Chiizii’s greater effort to make resources more accessible to encourage engagement with other cultures, needs, and socioeconomic groups.
A physical and interactive ‘Nni Bu Ogwu’ exhibition will launch during Frieze London, 12 to 16 October 2022, as part of the Contemporary African Art Fair.