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Meet the Artist

Akwi (b. 1979) is a professional interdisciplinary artist based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For more than twenty years, she has created in voice, words, and visual art. Her visual art practice includes multi-media art installations, textile assemblage, and mixed media works on canvas. 

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Why I Create

Ever since I was a child in Cameroon, my world has been infused with the rhythms and colors of human experience. Growing up in a multicultural environment, I found myself constantly surrounded by stories—stories of struggle, triumph, joy, and sorrow. These narratives, rich and varied, sparked a desire within me to capture and express the human condition through art. My work is a tapestry woven from the threads of these stories, each piece an exploration of identity, community, and resilience. Through a blend of paintings, mixed media and performance art, I seek to create spaces where viewers can see reflections of their own journeys, fostering a sense of connection and empathy.

Art, for me, is a vessel for storytelling. It's a way to give voice to the often-unheard, to shine a light on the overlooked facets of our shared existence. In every brushstroke, every marking, I strive to communicate a sense of connection to each other and to our world. My practice is deeply rooted in the belief that art has the power to transform, to heal, and to inspire. Each piece is an invitation to find beauty in points of human connection and the diversity of our experiences.

My Story

Growing up in Cameroon, as the daughter of a Cameroonian and an Iowan, I was immersed in a rich cultural tapestry of stories and traditions that shaped my view of the world. My dad was a university professor and my mom was an English teacher. They both loved reading and writing and worked as educators, tirelessly, to provide for our family. They instilled in me the values of resilience and creativity. In Cameroon, family gatherings were gatherings of epic storytelling. Conversation was lyrical and poetic as stories about their day were told, as well as tales of courage and community, humor and triumph. I was captivated by the power of storytelling and the ways in which the voice could convey complex emotions and experiences.

 

Eventually, we moved to Iowa from Cameroon. It was quite the culture shock and I was inspired to find solace in creative writing and poetry. I identified as a writer for almost two decades until life took several unexpected turns. I lost my inspiration to write, and found myself eager to embrace a more holistic identity as an artist, instead.

I started with scraps of materials I had around the house and homed in on fabric and beads leftover from my early years as a mom. These materials became the foundation of my artistic journey. I spent countless hours deconstructing and reconstructing fabric remnants into assemblages. Eventually my practice evolved into painting out of a studio in a historic building in my community. I'm blessed with a support system that allows me to balance being a mom with my passion for art.

The world can seem chaotic, but I believe art has the power to ground us, heal us, inspire and empower us. I channel my experiences, heritage, love for nature, and the stories of those around me into my work, striving to create art that celebrates the beauty of our diverse human experience, embraces imperfection, and reminds us we're connected. 

 

While I continue to write and perform on stage, often through projects funded by the Iowa Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, painting has become the medium that grounds me and that I hope brings a sense of peace, wonder, or joy to others. I paint imagined landscapes of our earth and bodies and am inspired by nature as an architect of sacred terrains.

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