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Njideka Akunyili Crosby awarded $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant”



Njideka Akunyili Crosby awarded the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship - BellaNaija

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, painter and daughter of former Nigerian minister Dora Akunyili, has been awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

Akunyili Crosby was described by the foundation as “a figurative painter whose large-scale works express the hybridity characteristic of transnational experience through choices of subject matter, materials, and techniques.”

Akunyili Crosby mixes painting, drawing, photo transfer, printmaking and other materials to make art.

She says she draws experience from her life as a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman who lives and works in the United States.

She was born in Enugu, but now lives in California.

The MacArthur Fellowship, also referred to as the Genius Grant, awards $625,000 to artists, writers, teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and people from all works of life who have shown exceptional creativity.

The grant is doled out in quarterly installments, made over a period of 5 years.

Amongst past recipients is writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who received the grant in 2008.

The 24 recipients of the 2017 MacArthur Fellowship are:

  • Njideka Akunyili Crowsby – Painter
  • Sunil Amrith – Historian
  • Greg Asbed – Human Rights Strategist
  • Annie Baker – Playwright
  • Regina Barzilay – Computer Scientist
  • Dawoud Bey – Photographer and Educator
  • Emmanuel Candes – Mathematician and Statistician
  • Jason De Leon -Anthropologist
  • Rhiannon Giddens – Singer, Instrumentalist & Songwriter
  • Nikole Hannah-Jones – Journalist
  • Cristina Jimenez Moreta – Social Justice Organizer
  • Taylor Mac – Theater Artist
  • Ramir Nashashibi – Community Leader
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen – Fiction Writer & Culture Critic
  • Kate Orff – Landscape Architect
  • Trevor Paglen – Artist and Geographer
  • Betsy Levy Paluck – Psychologist
  • Derek Paterson – Historian
  • Damon Rich – Designer & Urban Planner
  • Stefan Savage – Computer Scientist
  • Yuval Sharon – Opera Director & Producer
  • Tyshawn Sorey – Composer & Musician
  • Gabriel Victora – Immunologist
  • Jesmyn Ward – Fiction Writer

Watch Njideka Akunyili Crosby discuss her work below:


  1. Neze

    October 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    She’s so inspiring and her work is phenomenal! Keep flying that Nigerian flag high, Njide!

  2. ijele

    October 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    great mum , great daughter…………

  3. tunmi

    October 11, 2017 at 3:37 pm


  4. Mrs chidukane

    October 11, 2017 at 3:55 pm


  5. cheeksi

    October 11, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Why won’t America be great? When a foundation can give 625,000$ to support a talent, an art, an idea. When students are supported with scholarships. NIgeria tueh, we have billions of that amount, resting in the bank accounts of greedy fat politicians. While our writers and painters are dying of hunger. There are many Chimamandas and Njidekas sleeping under the bridges, unknown and unsupported while America supports and inherits our best.

  6. Mr. Lawal

    October 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Work hard, be resilient and you will become successful even in Nigeria. The likes of Bamidele Onibalusi, Mark Essien, Okechukwu Ofili, Jason Njoku etc only had ideas vision and resilience. You can fail as many times as possible but one thing is certain, ideas, innovation with creativity will take you to success.

    • ANOn

      October 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Because poor Nigerians aren’t talented or hardworking?, keep listing names. The fact that they are countable is a problem. Many of which are from privileged backgrounds btw. Pretty sure there are artistic relatives of njideka akunyili who will never have the same opportunities because they aren’t in America (not downplaying her hard work because I know how hard you must work to move ahead in America)
      You would have listed more names and there would be more if Nigeria did the right thing. But let’s take offence and be in denial everytime “abroad” is mentioned.

    • Cheeksi

      October 12, 2017 at 12:14 am

      By now we should know that “Mr.Hardwork” is NOT the key to success. Success is mostly a combination of several factors. All them quotes are outdated. Njoku, Ofili and Essien all come from privileged homes and all got their degrees abroad. Same with the Adichies and akunyilis. You cannot compare their knowledge and experiences with one who didn’t. Poverty aside, The strike and mental abuse from incompetent lecturers and Nepa is enough to knock out ideas and enthusiasm. They don’ have to apologize for their privileges but we cannot deny the role it played. Our conversation should be tailed toward equal opportunity for every Nigerian child. That is how it is in the abroad.

  7. Dr.N

    October 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    So proud of you

  8. Baby gurl

    October 11, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    wow wow i’m so proud of her. but i’m saddened by the reminder that there are many other “artists” wasting away here at home because there is no opportunity. nobody cares to fund art. everybody is greedy. the politicians and public office holders are sucking all the resources and fattening up while the rest of us get skinnier by the second. congrats njideka your mum is sure smiling from above. God bless u.

    • Tosin

      October 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm

      it’s depressing but there will be there will be, the sun will rise again (I hope.)
      Have you heard of artXlagos ?

  9. Comment

    October 11, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    She’s really a genius….continuing her mom’s dedicated legacy…

  10. californiabawlar

    October 12, 2017 at 3:39 am

    Her art is truly all the way up there! Congrats!! You inspire excellence.

  11. Tosin

    October 12, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Omo! That’s fantastic.


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