Danshiki with Y-Shaped Embroidery

Ozioma Onuzulike

Danshiki with Y-Shaped Embroidery, 2023

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About the artwork

In his Palm Kernel Shell Beads series, Onuzulike reflects on the historical use of beads as items of commercial exchange for slaves in Africa by European merchants. Onuzulike uses local clays to recreate palm kernel shells into beads and inlays them with recycled glass and ash glazes. He uses these new beads to weave textile structures that remind one, not of the slave trade era, but instead of Africa’s prestigious cloths like the Akwaete of the Igbo of Southeastern Nigeria, the Kente of Ghana, and even the Aso-Oke of the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria. Kente is the most famous of all African textiles and traditionally woven by men and typically worn by royalty. In this elegant artwork, Danshiki with Y-Shaped Embroidery, the overall design is Kente. The color palette that provides the design, comes from firing the small pieces of clay at different temperatures and different lengths of time. Here for the first time, he incorporates a central Y, with blue-grey coloration, the Y crisscrossed by the garment’s copper color. The blue and grey are made by firing ground glass into the kernels. Each of the over 5,000 pieces are shaped in clay from palm kernels from which palm oil is made.

“My artwork is inspired by the questions of what made us what we are today, how we are today, the social conditions of Africa….”

Ozioma Onuzulike

Ozioma Onuzulike


A ceramics artist, renowned poet, and a leading figure in the contemporary ceramic art scene in Africa, Ozioma Onuzulike’s works directly address challenges that are not only historical and contemporary to Africa but also the world over with regard to colonialism, migration, and global warming. Onuzulike was born in 1972 in Achi, Enugu State, Nigeria. He graduated First Class from the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he is currently professor of ceramic art and African art history, and Director of the University’s Institute of African Studies.

Among solo exhibitions, Seed Yams of Our Land was held at the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), Lagos, Nigeria, in 2019, along with a presentation of his poetry collection of the same title also published by the CCA. Moreover, his works were included in the exhibition held at the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK, arising from the [Re:]Entanglements Research Project led by Professor Paul Basu.

Onuzulike is a fellow of the Civitella Ranieri Centre, Umbertide, Perugia, Italy, where he completed a residency under the UNESCO-ASCHBERG Bursary for Artists. Additionally, he is a 2011 recipient of the African Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship Award of the America Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and 2010 Leventis Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of London Centre of African Studies, SOAS; and an alumnus of the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, USA.

His first US gallery show was at Marc Straus in NYC in September 2023, and sold out with purchases by major museums and collectors. The demand continued and specific commissions, such as this artwork Danshiki with Y-Shaped Embroidery, were created. Marc Straus has been invited to take his work to numerous international fairs including in the US, India, and Taipei.

His work is currently in the collection of the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Lagos, Nigeria; Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK; Princeton University Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, USA; The Design Museum, Munich, Germany; Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art, Peekskill, New York, USA; Donnersberg Collection, France, among others.

Marc Straus

Curated by

Marc Straus


The Lisa Foundation in choosing this commission, wanted a work of Ozioma that referenced the Kente Design but also had a unique element added that included ground glass. The size they chose is one that represents the best of how Ozioma works and is optimal for resale. They key is that at this juncture there is no better work by Ozioma Onuzulike. Marc Straus Gallery in NYC.

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