For many, some of the most daunting questions are those of identity, who you are, and finding your place in the world. These become even more convoluted when taking into account the myriad of intersections that members of the diaspora and other marginalised communities have to navigate day-to-day.
It’s nestled within these questions of existentialism and the self that Ebun Sodipo’s ‘This Body of Fragments’ finds its genesis.
Through tender exploration, the booklet – itself a fragment of the larger, mixed-media work ‘although it may seem absurd, the earth also moves’ – attempts to articulate a poetic self-study of the role the body plays in building identities, emotional capacities, and the retention of memories. “I think of my work as a way of telling a story about me, about who I am and who I am making myself into,” Ebun says of their practice. “An ongoing conversation between me and my body, attempting to think about it while resisting Western, colonial, patriarchal ways of knowing the body.”
Fragmentation as praxis and gentle exposition pervade the entirety of the booklet. “I use poetry and collage because I think it’s the way we make ourselves,” Ebun goes on. “Combining different bits of memories and knowledges in a creative way to make sense of the world, of emotions, of events, a process that takes place both in the centre of our consciousness but also at the murky far edges of it.” Riffing off the coarse textualities of glitch art and Post-Internet aesthetics, ‘This Body of Fragments’ uses jumbled patchworks of screen grabs, lo-fi graphics and broken prose to manifest a meditative process that gives us a glimpse into the mechanics of Ebun’s self-construction. In abstraction and fragmentation, they find an opaque, emotive language with which they can articulate the identities and lived experiences that inform this kind of intimate, embodied archival practice.
But, whiteness has always struggled to accept the empowerment of marginalised identities. Within its constructs, the ‘validity’ of an identity or whether that identity offers complete comprehensibility and reconciliation with a white understanding of the self, determines the ‘right’ of an individual to be archived. As a result, black bodies have been and still are being censored – knowingly erased from history and deemed to be undeserving of preservation. Ebun recognises this and uses ‘This Body of Fragments’ to write themselves into being in a world whose structures were never built for them.
“This booklet is my visual and poetic theorisation of the body as its own archive. My body is where my self takes place,” they explain. “This work for me is incredibly important as a black trans-femme African who is keenly aware of how knowledge shapes possibility, both imaginative and material. The knowledge of the world I’m living through tells me either that my existence, the fact of which is apparently still up for debate, doesn’t matter. In fact, in keeping with black study, the denial of my existence, and the making real of this denial, is what keeps the world turning. So, I make work to keep the possibility of myself and those that come after alive and known.”
In ‘This Body of Fragments,’ Ebun refuses to allow themselves or their work to become subject to erasure or extraction. Through a pensive modulation between intentional opacity and generous introspection, the booklet protects the physicality and integrity of their identities, with a view to self-preservation and holding space for those to come. This wasn’t made for you, the work seems to state; it was made for us.
Words by Linda Sou