Jebila Okongwu critiques stereotypes of Africa and African identity and repurposes them as counterstrategies, drawing on African history, symbolism, and spirituality. Themes of civil rights, migration, street hawkers, and other socio-political concerns are prevalent in Okongwu’s art. He often works with banana boxes, considering that their cliched slogans and tropical graphics articulate an ‘exotic’ provenance, much like the exoticisation of African bodies from an ethnocentric perspective. When these banana boxes are shipped across to the West from Africa, the Caribbean and South America, the old routes of slavery are retraced, as capital and migratory channels carve into existing patterns of exploitation. In cutting up and reconfiguring the boxes, Okongwu seeks to activate the prospect of chance—a vital root of Western Dada and African divination.
Okongwu often employs performance to enact his ideas. He has exhibited at the American Academy in Rome, Italy; Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy; and Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma in Rome, among other international locations.