Friction Ridge Bench, 2023
Edition of 10 + 1 AP
Nifemi Marcus-Bello’s Oríkì (Act I): Friction Ridge, the first of several design Acts in an ongoing series typified by the exploration of identity, materiality, and craft production.
Act I of Oríkì—so named after the multi-generational practice of praise poetry and spoken affirmation amongst the Yoruba people and Yoruba-speakers of West Africa—presents an edition of sculptural benches rendered in polished bronze and exhibited amidst a soundscape featuring the voice of the artists mother, Folake, as she delivers Marcus-Bello’s personalised oríkì.
Eschewing the presentation of multiple work typologies in favor of the focus emphasized by the repetition of a single form, Marcus-Bello makes the physicality, texture, production process, and associated producer-craftsmen a vital part of these works’ outward legibility; indeed, the pieces are surfaced with the imprints of the designer and artisans involved in their fabrication.
Friction Ridge—the name of these functional sculptures as well as the title of this first Act—refers to the skin present along the lengths of the fingers and palmar surfaces of the hand: ridges and valleys used for the kinds of gripping and mechanical motions that Marta’s colleague, the ceramicist Alex Reed, refers to tenderly as ‘touch work’. Marcus-Bello cites as inspiration a tradition of the Surma people of Ethiopia, who paint themselves and one another using the repetitive imprints of their finger pads—an artistic expression as well as one of camaraderie.
Collaboratively fabricated between Lagos and Benin City, the pieces in Oríkì (Act I) are realised by way of the same lost-wax casting technique previously used to create royal portraiture in the former Benin Kingdom prior to the looting of many of those works by British occupants in the 19th Century. The recent repatriation of a number of these bronzes prompted Marcus-Bello to envision contemporary forms realised using historic techniques and regional expertise. The resulting bench works are multi-occupant seating sculptures composed not of straight lines but of gentle curves, gracefully proposing several sitters in reflective communion.
In collaboration with Marta.