How Nigerian Artist Layo Bright Uses Glass to Explore Migration

In the turbulent world of migration, Layo Bright’s sculptures creates spaces for African narratives.

Perhaps the most striking motif in Layo Bright’s artwork is the sculpted female heads. In their close-eyed profile, they harken back to the precolonial artistic practice in West Africa, the bronze and terracotta heads in Nigeria with royal trappings. In the hands of Bright, they are recontextualized as a personal and broader commentary on cultural dynamics, identity, memory, colonization, displacement, and migration.

Some of her head pieces are intricately crowned with gele, a Yoruba head tie worn by the women in her homeland. At the base finds a foliage-like sprout made from checkered bags, or colloquially named Ghana-Must-Go. It’s a phrase that came along in ’80s Nigeria to drive out undocumented immigrants, most of which where Ghanaians. These pieces are mounted on a wooden plaque, thus creating rich dimensions of texture.

Even more noteworthy is how Bright — who grew up in Lagos but is now based in New York — handles glass as a frontier of sculpting, the lack of opacity sometimes making them appear like slumbering oracles of sacred knowledge. Altogether, Bright has developed an artistic vocabulary informed by her experience, heritage, and a wider social climate on the continent. For this she’s garnered acclaim. Her sculptures have been featured in international exhibitions and installations such as Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, Smack Mellon, and Art Salon.


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