Uche Okpa-Iroha, The Plantation Boy (2012)

Published in Telling Time, Rencontres de Bamako 10th edition, exhibition catalogue, November 2015

Uche Okpa-Iroha, The Plantation Boy (2012), The Reconstruction - story board. Image (c) the artist. via theplantationboy.blogspot.co.uk

Completed during the final year of Uche Okpa-Iroha’s two-year residency at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, The Plantation Boy (2012) project consists of two series of images that collectively examine the power structures of race and the hegemony of Western culture – signalling central concerns in Okpa-Iroha’s recent artistic practice. The title situates the work within the black and African quest for freedom and self-determination arising in the slave plantation era and continuing to impact the lives of black subjects globally.

In The Plantation Boy Okpa-Iroha meticulously places himself in the frame of the image, through strategies of reconstruction and reenactment. The artist intervenes in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 Hollywood movie The Godfather by isolating and reconstructing forty original film stills from the seminal movie. Through a process digital reconstruction the artist disrupts an iconic Hollywood image with the presence of an African man amongst the familial gangs of an Italian-American subculture. Addressing the politics of representation in Western cinema that is marked by a striking absence of black bodies, Okpa-Iroha challenges stereotypical and subservient representations of African identity by taking centre stage. 

In his series of photographic reenactments, Okpa-Iroha further takes charge of his own image with his restaging of dramatic tableau inspired by the film. Through performative gestures, both series broach the relationship between time, still and moving image. By selecting and extracting imagery from The Godfather, Okpa-Iroha lays bare the film’s system of representation, interjects with a powerful redress of history, and sets an alternative story in motion.


Uche Okpa-Iroha 

born in 1972 in Enugu, Nigeria – Lives in Lagos, Nigeria