Black Art at Night: Francesca Ekwuyasi

I'thandi Munro
Posted on February 26th, 2021
by I'thandi Munro

It's I'thandi, and I'm back to chat about another artist - today we are talking about Francesca Ekwuyasi! Their work is multidisciplinary always tells a story.

Francesca Ekwuyasi's artist practice encompasses writing, audio, film, and visual art. Originally from Lagos Nigeria, themes of faith, family, queerness, consumption, loneliness and belonging are present with whatever media she works within. She moved to Kjipuktuk/Halifax when she was 20 for grad school and faced with loneliness she found a sense of belonging within the Black and Queer communities here. A main focus of her work is reconciling her queerness with her faith.

Ekwuyasi has been published, screened, and interviewed internationally. Her debut novel Butter Honey Pig Bread (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020) has received lots of recognition this past year and is a Canada Reads 2021 Contender and Long-listed for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize. The book tells the interwoven stories of twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi, and uses the preparation and consumption of childhood food to provide the characters catharsis, knowledge, and pleasure. Through her work, Ekwusayi recalls the "two very different experiences" of being a Black African immigrant versus a Black Nova Scotian. Black In Halifax was a series of short films that touched on the particular racial nuances of the city through the Black Nova Scotian perspective.

Ekwuyasi
performed during Nocturne 2018: Nomadic Reciprocity curated Raven Davis with The Queer Songbook Orchestra. The (QSO) is a 12-piece chamber pop collective exploring and uplifting queer narrative in pop music. Founded in 2014 the QSO have appeared on stages throughout Canada earning high praise for their unique and collaborative approach.

Queer Songbook Orchestra
Francesca Ekwuyasi performing for the Queer Songbook Orchestra during Nocturne 2018: Nomadic Reciprocity photo by Topher And Rae Studios


Ekwuyasi also coordinated and moderated our 2019 panel How We Build: On Craft and Blackness, co-presented by Visual Arts News, MSVU and Nocturne during the Nocturne 2019 festival: Scaffold, curated by Tori Fleming. This talk was held at NSCAD's Art Bar +Projects and also featured artists Letitia Fraser, Sobaz Benjamin, Juanita Peters. Based on curator Pamela Edmond’s quote “I am no longer interested in a seat at the table. I now want to build my own table” this panel focused on the concept of Black artists creating work for a Black audience.

How We Build: On Craft And Blackness
Francesca Ekwuyasi Moderating How We Build: On Craft And Blackness alongside panelists: NAT Chantel, Juanita Peters Letitia Fraser, and Sobaz Benjamin during Nocturne 2019: Scaffold



With her latest Project during Nocturne 2020: Echolocation, curated by Lindsay Dobbin, she presented Reverberations and the Sound of Our Voices, this was a virtual community story-telling project focused on themes of identity and belonging. Using an online platform, this project involved audio and text stories based on the social locations of Ekwuyasi's identities. The project invited listeners/readers to participate anonymously by echoing or sharing their own stories based on the same or similar social locations of their own identities. These stories were then accompanied by sound (and written sound descriptions) created by musician and noise artist Carmel Farahbakhsh.

Reverberations And The Sound Of Our Voices
Graphics by Francesca Ekwuyasi for Reverberations And The Sound Of Our Voices during Nocturne 2020: Echolocation

You can find her on Instagram at @francesca.ekwuyasi and on their website at www.ekwuyasi.com