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Katya Akuma

Conformity versus True Self, 2019

Discarded leather, nails, wood, rust dyed fabric

36 X 48 in / 91.44 X 121.92 cm

Conformity versus True Self is influenced by the appreciation, respect and love for the Nigerian culture that Akuma proudly got married into. The aim of the work is to express the authentic voices, stories and dynamics that are related to the acculturation immigrants undergo, specifically Akuma's family members. The artwork reflects their experiences in corporate environments that often suggest to conform – to act, look, think and live in a certain way.


Immigration is not a single event. Rather, it is a multifaceted and multilayered experience. In order to escape social isolation and integrate better, immigrants are incentivized to have multiple identities in order to fit the expectations and ideologies of corporate norms. However, beneath the façade of the copy/pasted corporate "look" lies a much more complex and layered memory of the original self.


Discarded leather scraps, which is the primary medium, have the power to evoke an emotional response that is induced by its different elements - from the unique texture (scratches, holes, imperfections), to the smell. Another important part of the artwork are the textile patches that are dyed with rust which serve as a pathway to the memories of each person. Furthermore, the use of nails represents solid, original values and traditions.


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Katya Akuma is an interdisciplinary artist who focuses on using ubiquitous, overlooked, culturally-rich materials, to explore questions of identity and belonging drawing upon her personal experience as an immigrant who has lived and worked in several countries. Her Russian heritage and the Nigerian culture she has married into heavily influences her work and highlights the beauty of interracial love, merging of cultures and racial inter-connectedness.


Katya has developed a unique storytelling technique involving densely layered discarded leather and found objects that often depict the richness of African and Russian cultures and immigrant experiences. Through her use of recycled medium, she seeks to highlight the creative potential of repurposed materials while inviting the audience to reconsider the environmental impact of their consumption and disposal. She holds a Master's degree in Fashion Studies from Parsons, The New School for Design and is currently attending an art residency at The Andrew Freedman Home. Akuma's works were recently exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art Pop Rally. She was selected and participated in the Parsons Design Fellowship that was launched by Donna Karan and Parsons, The New School for Design for The Design, Organization, Training Center (D.O.T) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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