Bright Ugochukwu Eke’s recent works focus on the global refugee crisis, which includes a large percentage of Africans. “Portmanteau” originated as an aristocratic word for the court official who carried a prince’s mantle, but it came to refer to luggage made of two unequal parts. For Eke’s work titled “Portmanteau,” Eke tears apart and flattens suitcases, his process a metaphor for the forces that refugee families suffer. Eke’s title ironically highlights the dire straits of refugees compared to the ease of luxury travelers with branded luggage. “Portmanteau” is also a term coined by Lewis Carrol for a word composed of two others——such as “Guccifer”, the name of a famous hacker whose name combines Lucifer and the luxury luggage brand Gucci.
Eke states, “Immigration also inspired my work ‘Portmanteau’. The word has different meanings, but here it refers to a suitcase, which references travel or migration. It has a particular resonance for me because during my upbringing in Nigeria, people were regularly departing and returning with what was termed a “portmanteau”—a large case or trunk suitable for moving country, or importing a large volume of goods. Throughout history, people have migrated not just to seek refuge, but also to seek opportunity, to trade. So this work is part of my material and visual investigation of immigrants at different moments and places in history, drawing on more personal experiences.”