Citizen Artist Feature: Toyin Ojih Odutola

Toyin Ojih Odutola‘s piece Uncertain yet Reserved is featured in Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen: An American Lyric. Rankine will be reading at Concordia University on March 10, 2017. Details here. Ojih Odutola (b. 1985, Ife, Nigeria) is a visual artist who creates drawings exploiting diverse mediums to emphasize how an image is a striated terrain to mine beyond formulaic representation.


When I draw my brothers in particular, I exploit the feminine. I always give them huge lashes and I always capture them in poses that are not quintessential black male poses. There’s one piece that’s based on a photo I took at the Abuja airport, which is absolute chaos, where my brother’s head is cocked up and there’s a tinge of terror in his eyes. He was trying so hard to be this calm, cool black dude. I loved that. I called the piece Uncertain yet Reserved (2012) because he was reserving everything. He was trying so hard to hold onto his blackness, his maleness, but he was very scared and neither of us knew what was going on. It’s the slight sense of uncertainty where his eyes are wavering. I love that kind of portrayal. The whole point of exploiting that gender construct is to get at the person and not get at the label that society wants to put on them. It’s all about the social construct of an identity and the reality of a person, which are very different things.

-Toyin Ojih  Odutola speaking to Zachary Rosen on Africa is a Country, Culture (2012)

The cover image for this post (the  portrait of Odutola) is from Interview Magazine and was taken by Vicente Muñoz.

Writers Read Concordia

The tradition of literary readings at Concordia predates the existence of the university itself, as such events were held well before Sir George Williams and Loyola merged in 1974. The series, now known as Writers Read at Concordia, invites renowned and emerging authors, both Canadian and international, to read from and discuss their work with students and local audiences. In addition to readings, the series includes Master Classes and professional development activities, some open to the public and others only for Concordia students. Collaborations with Concordia’s School of Canadian Irish Studies, The Pilot, the Atwater Poetry Project, Bishop’s University, the Université de Montreal’s Department of English, and other organizations make the series possible. The Concordia Bookstore acts as bookseller for all major readings. Another activity offered in affiliation with the Concordia English Department, the Summer Literary Seminars is held annually in Montreal, Kenya, and Lithuania. As one of the world's largest and most innovative international writing programs, SLS offers partial scholarships and academic credit to full-time Concordia students. The program brings together the finest American, Canadian, European, and African writers and literary scholars with their host counterparts in a two-week flurry of writing related activities. Faculty have included such writers as: Amy Bloom, Robert Coover, Dave Eggers, Ed Hirsch, Denis Johnson, Colum McCann, Jayne Anne Phillips and George Saunders. Registration is required. Additional tuition subsidies are available through the Dean's office. For more information, contact Mike Spry. Writers Read at Concordia is supported by the Department of English, the Creative Writing Program, and Concordia University. The Writers Read Series also receives funding assistance from the Faculty of Arts and Science.