Mary Evans (b. 1963)

It takes a village…

Image from It takes a village… by Allen & Overy
Year: 2016
Material: Craft paper
Dimensions: Variable

After her education at the prestigious Goldsmiths College, the British artist Mary Evans, originally from Nigeria, studied at the Rijksakademie (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Amsterdam in the early 1990s. She is frequently involved in giving lectures and is a guest lecturer and project leader at a large number of academies and art institutions in the Netherlands and abroad. Now that the self-awareness of African artists has increased in recent years and the popularity of their work becomes clearly visible in the contemporary art market, following emerging art countries such as China and India, collectors and museums have caught sight of her work once again.

Perhaps now more than ever, black artists are concerned with the theme of rewriting Western art history and social inequality. For Evans, the history of slavery plays an important role in this context. Evans speaks contemplatively and reflectively on this subject, which makes the impact of her work all the greater.

The monumental work she created on the fifth floor of the Apollo House is called It takes a village… It refers to the well-known African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, emphasising the group’s responsibility for individuals. This expression was used by many Africans in the diaspora as a precept, an ideal with which they honoured their connection to their origins. According to the artist, her work is both “a reflection of the community as well as the social interaction between generations”.

Evans uses simple, brown wrapping paper from which she cuts anonymous human figures and attaches them directly to a wall with wallpaper paste. She often works on assignment, creating work intended for a specific place, including here at Allen & Overy.

At the Apollo House, she cleverly makes use of the architecture of the building and utilises the entire wall. The resting, waiting figures, diminishing in size as you look upwards, are leaning against an edge or on the letters of the signage. As a viewer, you are led into an imaginary space. Evans speaks of a “wallscape”, where you can spend time and identify with the life-sized figures.

Image from It takes a village… by Allen & Overy