On Saturday, October 23, at 1 p.m. the Far Rockaway community got a glimpse of Anthonia Akinbola’s artistic talents. At the RCCG Chapel of Praise Activity Hall on Beach 67th Street and Beach Channel Drive, an intimate gathering of friends, family, and people of the community came together to bear witness to her original art pieces, ranging from unique clothing creations to the main event of her exhibit, the “Culture of Migration 2.” Her first “Culture of Migration” piece was presented in 2019, funded by Queens Council of the Arts, which she plans to renew for future presentation. The Activity Hall of RCCG Chapel of Praise was chosen with community engagement in mind. Her exhibition is funded by New York City Artist Corporation.
Anthonia Akinbola is a textile artist, born in Abeokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria, now living in Jamaica, Queens. Her business office, Infopower International, is in Far Rockaway. She was inspired by the history of migration in America to create the center of her exhibition, “Culture of Migration 2.” The piece combines different elements of immigrant history, from depictions of unlawful migration (slavery), to the blending of African cultures (the colorful flags in one palm), to the legacies built by our ancestors (Capitol Hill). The crown of the Statue of Liberty is meant to represent the acceptance of immigrants, while the image of the man on a horse grabbing the man running away references the unsettling imagery of Haitian migrants attempting to cross the border into Texas being met with force from Texas border patrol officers on horseback. Akinbola’s intention behind this piece is to challenge the negative perception of immigrants and uplift their legacy as ambitious people who built this country despite the sociopolitical struggles they’ve endured along the way.
Her introduction into traditional Indigo, Adire and Batik design, which she has personalized to her liking, came through the practices of her mother, an educator, who also created elegant garments, saris, as gifts for expatriate teachers in India and Pakistan, sharing the art medium with other local artists as well. As a teen, Akinbola dabbled in other mediums of art, such as mosaics, acrylic paint, watercolor, oil painting, and ceramics. Akinbola’s preferred material for her art, which she used to create “Culture of Migration 2,” is silk, as it absorbs the colorful dyes better. In her artist statement, Akinbola developed her expertise in this art form, which then allowed her to host her own craft-based television program catered to housewives.
“What could differentiate me from other artists?” she asked herself. Akinbola states she immigrated from Nigeria to Columbia, Missouri as a student where her fiber art gained wide recognition through her self-led community engaged visual art programs, hosted by Columbia public schools and other community organizations. Akinbola then asked herself, “What do I want to do different? What can I do to make myself better?” and sought a way of expanding her artistry beyond schools, designing cotton-made clothing with her husband using batik art methods.
Akinbola has continued to grow her business after 20 years, creating an online custom clothing business on Etsy called Batik Art Studio. After moving to New York in 2012, she taught batik workshops through Infopower International, a nonprofit organization, at professional outings, including The Brooklyn Textile Art Center and the South East Queens Park Association. And today, Akinbola partners with her husband through Infopower International as an art coordinator, teaching at senior centers and hosting children’s workshops, creating a space of unity and inspiration for the youth.
Her mission is to teach the younger generation of immigrants to have confidence and vision, to instill in them the courage to believe that their passions can make them successful. She encourages children to admire their past and where they come from by acknowledging the journey their ancestors took, to see the accomplishments they’ve made as a community and to see that strength within themselves. Their drive can lead them to do great things into their adulthood, and change can start in their own community.
“We should be proud of who we are in this country. We should be proud because we are looking at what our forefathers, the ones that came before us, what they did in building this place up. And that should make us proud and make us keep our heads up. So, we should not get into atrocities because we think we are little, because we are truly great people. We are children of the kings and queens from Africa, from different parts of the world,” she said.
By Carina Lamont
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