Njideka Akunyili Crosby ‘04, an award-winning figurative painter, is among this year’s 24 recipients of MacArthur “genius grants.” The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.
The MacArthur Foundation says that Akunyili Crosby’s large-scale works “express the hybridity characteristic of transnational experience through choices of subject matter, materials, and techniques.” Born and raised in Nigeria but living now in the United States, Akunyili Crosby layers paint, fabric, and photographic source imagery that she transfers or collages onto her surfaces. She often focuses figures, and family members, situated in domestic settings. The foundation also notes that Akunyili Crosby’s use of appropriated elements such as family photos, cutouts from Nigerian newspapers and magazines, and commemorative cloth “signal the works' engagement with the world beyond the here and now of the interior scene described—the world of events and history, both collective and personal.”
Akunyili Crosby graduated from Swarthmore in 2004, where she majored in art and biology. She later completed a post-baccalaureate certificate at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and an M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art. In 2014, she won the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Art Prize.
Akunyili Crosby is the third Swarthmore graduate in four years to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship; education entrepreneur Patrick Awuah '89 was named a fellow in 2015 and historian Tara Zahra '98 was named a fellow in 2014.