A Local Artist Taps Into Her Multicultural Upbringing To Examine The Intersection Of Memory And History


regina agu portrait in studio

Drawing mutual inspiration from her Nigerian and Louisiana bayou roots, Houston-based artist Regina Agu’s provocative collages and installations often elicit a call-and-response reaction much in the same vein as traditional African storytelling. “I’m really interested in looking at the intersection between memory and history, which influences the majority of my work,” notes the Cornell University graduate.

Applying an interdisciplinary approach to her mixed-media pieces, the artist interweaves nuances of a divided cultural identity generated by a childhood split between Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa and Switzerland. “I got to experience a lot of different cultures and languages at a very young age, which helped shape and inform my art,” she says. Agu’s collages—a patchwork of vintage textbooks, drawings and her own photography—are evocative of a deep interest in world politics and metaphorically link her ancestral past to an ever-promising future. “I’m really drawn to African culture,” Agu explains. “This along with my experiences, people that I’ve met and photo archives are always a source of inspiration.”

Agu's A Rare Specimen

Agu’s A Rare Specimen (Mami Wata Suite No. 3) utilizes collage, gouache and parchment on paper.

akron art museum installation

El Anatsui, whose work can be seen at the Brooklyn Museum, is someone Agu would love to work with.

What thrills you most about what you do?
I enjoy storytelling, so what I find most thrilling about being an artist is to take existing stories, events and history and put different lenses on them.

Desired collaboration:
My ideal collaboration would be with El Anatsui. He’s a Ghanaian artist who creates gorgeous installation pieces and environments out of found objects.

Favorite local design shops:
Kuhl-Linscomb is one of my favorite design shops because there’s so much inventory to discover. I also enjoy hunting around antiques stores and small boutiques for surprise finds.

Dream dinner party guests:
Akilah Oliver, a late poet and conceptual writer who has had a profound impact on my recent work; Teju Cole, a contemporary African writer and photographer; Colette, the late French novelist and performer; Neil deGrasse Tyson, a witty astrophysicist; Gabriel García Márquez, my favorite fiction writer; and my mom.


This story originally appeared in the Spring 2013 Texas issue of Luxe Interiors + Design.