Origin of Afro-Esotericism is a photograph created by the artist Awol Erizku (Ethiopia, 1988).
At first glance, the artwork appears to be a classic, although intricate and complex, Still Life composed of different objects, apparently distant from each other. However, by observing the details of the composition, it becomes apparent that the scene is dominated by a human presence, an arm with the evident power to govern the relationship and balances of the narrative. It is precisely the inclusion of this gesture that constitutes a sort of challenge to the classic canons of the genre, making the artwork – and the series to which it belongs – a contemporary interpretation of the Still Life.

The use of visual vocabulary also reflects the qualities of interdisciplinarity, employing different techniques to compose the final artwork: sculptures that, combined with everyday objects, create the installation; a reference to studio photography and digital printing given by the presence of a color chart on the scene – an essential tool for color profiling and accurately reproducing desired tones; all captured and presented through the photographic medium.

Erizku’s work bridges the gap between African and Afro-American cultures, a practice focused on exploring religious, aesthetic, and social divergences, emphasizing them through the physical and iconographic juxtaposition of various objects. Rejecting traditional Western canons, Erizku seeks a new and personal aesthetic, hence the title of the artwork, Origin of Afro-Esotericism.
Indeed, the language is characterized by an intercultural narrative that blends subjects and references from different times and places, from African masks to a bottle of maple syrup, from incense to a bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, from statues to a stack of banknotes. It is an exercise of affirming his identity through the contrasts, sometimes even the contradictions, arising from belonging to different social structures.

Origin of Afro-Esotericism is part of the Afro-Esotericism project, which aims to create a new Afro-centric visual language. By embracing the ideology of the Black Lives Matter movement in its fullest form, it seeks to valorize not only the lives of Afro-American people but also their culture, art, customs, and ideas.


Awol Erizku
Origin of Afro-Esotericism, 2018-2020
Archival pigment print, 53,34 x 60,96 x 5,08 cm ©