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Elizabeth's Daughter

A memoir gallery and artist residency in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria.

$17,845
pledged of$30,000 goal
220
12Days Left
Fund it
Campaign Ends on April 25, 2021

Project Description

My name is Iquo B. Essien. I am a Nigerian-American filmmaker with a Master's in Fine Arts degree in film from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

Back in 2010, I traveled to Nigeria to conduct research for a memoir of my late mother, Elizabeth Essien. I was on leave from film school, trying to figure out what was next for me. I was also still processing the loss eight years after she’d died of cancer. She had always wanted to write her story, but she’d never gotten the chance—so I took it up for her.

I traveled. I returned to knock on doors several times just hoping one of my mother's old friends would be home. I conducted tons of interviews. I shot photos and collected old ones, finding a local business in Uyo to scan hi-resolution copies. I shot video. And every day, I wrote.

In 2013, I finished a memoirette, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures.

The memoir examines my mother’s departure from Nigeria, her life and death, and my eventual return to remember and write about her, exploring issues of religion, politics, language, and identity. It is a story about a grief-stricken daughter turned bona fide writer—chronicling my journey as I uncover my mother’s life as a would-be nun turned wife, while coming-of-age as an artist and young woman.

Today, eight years later, I invite you to join me in reimagining Elizabeth’s Daughter as a memoir gallery and residency for African womxn artists.

In the years since writing the memoir, I've amassed a content archive of audio recordings, photos, video, archival documents, journals, and writing. It became increasingly clear that the project was so much more than a book. My family's story offers unique insights on the past 100 years of history of Nigerians at home and abroad. And the project helped me become a keeper of potentially lost history. I feel called to bring it to a wider audience while promoting other artists who do similar work.

I plan to transform the Calabar home of my late grandmother into an exhibition space and virtual gallery accessible around the globe. In the adjacent dwelling, I will create a residency space and studio for visionary African womxn artists.

I'm interested in supporting artists—writers, filmmakers, dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors, and others—who preserve and promote culture through their work. In this way, this project is about much more than me, my late mother, or indeed my family—it's about platforming the creative work of many artists who pass down stories, cultures, and traditions for generations.

Cultural preservation for its own sake is not a common practice among Nigerians or the Ibibio.

I have seen firsthand how poorly family photos, stories, traditions, and customs are generally kept, shared, preserved and documented. I’ve lamented as family members have passed on and left few personal artifacts behind. And I’ve continued to wonder what becomes of us when our history, stories, traditions, and customs—already reconfigured by slavery, colonization, independence, war, and globalization—are perpetually lost to time. This project would be the first of its kind in Calabar, a place rich in culture and history.

We need a global movement to promote storytelling, documentation, and cultural preservation.

In an era when countless elders are dying of a novel virus, I believe preservation is the most important work of our time. Without it, we're in danger of losing our languages, cultures, and customs forever.  This is the primary question I think about every day, while wondering if I'll have enough time to realize this vision.

I need your support to launch the Elizabeth's Daughter Memoir Gallery & Artist Residency.

The first step is purchasing the land in Calabar, which is on the market for imminent sale. I’m raising $30,000 for this goal and with your support I'll be able to keep the land in the family and develop this amazing space. Prior to construction, the land will also be the site of my debut feature film, inspired by my grandmother and my experiences traveling home to write the memoir! In this way, the land will be a physical space of memory, history, culture, and creation that will pay cultural dividends far into the future.

I ask that you share the project with others in honor of Women's History Month.

I owe everything to the strong women in my family who came before me and am ready to carry the torch from where they left off. With your support, may it shine brighter!

 

The future site of the Elizabeth's Daughter Memoir Gallery & Artist Residency stands on the plot of land originally purchased by my late grandfather, Chief Paul Bassey Okon (pictured below left), who was a teacher and businessman in the colonial era. He became a chief and the first clanhead of Etoi, with many wives, among them my Grandmother Patricia (pictured below right).

 

The compound consists of a farm, two-family bungalow dwelling, boys quarters, and bore hole. I will renovate the portion of the compound where my grandmother lived into the memoir gallery, rehabilitating the farm, and renovating the other portion of the bungalow into an artist residency with studio space.

 

My vision is to use solar panels and eco-friendly materials in the design, and people power, by way of gallery visits, events, visiting artists, donations, and grants to enliven and sustain the space for years to come.

The land bears the deep impression of my family’s history and the stories of countless Ibibio people who passed through it during my grandfather’s short, yet remarkable, life as an educator turned businessman—and my grandmother’s many years as a seafood trader, surviving war and financial struggles as a single, illiterate mother whose descendants would go on to become global leaders in their fields.

Her life span alone, from 1912 to 2013, covers a fascinating stretch of Nigerian history encompassing the establishment of indirect rule all the way through the youth-led movement for good governance and public accountability during the 2011 Nigerian Presidential elections. Indeed, it is these personal and national histories that will comprise the memoir gallery.

 

Displaying photographs, personal letters, audio clips, videos, memoir excerpts, and archival materials, the exhibition space will explore issues of religion, politics, language, education, and identity through the lens of my family’s story—tied to the broader history of colonialism, Christianity, independence, war, and globalization.

In this way, the memoir gallery will offer up a tangible reflection on the everpresent struggles for personal, political, economic, and social autonomy for Ibibio people and Nigerians as a whole—while the residency, next door, will provide a retreat for visionary African womxn artists driven to preserve, promote, and archive culture for the world.

Far beyond an important site of memory for my family, Calabar is significant for Nigerians and the world at large—as a historical slave port and colonial hub that features tourist, gallery, and museum sites; as well as the annual Calabar Carnival attracting millions of visitors from around the globe.

It is my hope that the Elizabeth’s Daughter Memoir Gallery & Artist Residency will not only positively impact the lives of global patrons, African womxn artists, project partners, Ibibio people, and Nigerians alike, but will also provide local jobs and become a popular destination in a region renowned for its history, culture and tourism.

I am raising $30,000 for the land purchase and, thanks to your support, we're already halfway there! The funds will be used to secure the land and ensure it remains in the family. I plan to leverage the successful campaign to raise follow-up capital through grants and partnerships. Excess campaign funds will be used to establish 501(c)(3) status, develop the gallery exhibit, catalogue the content archive, purchase a domain name, and begin creating the virtual gallery.

 

This project is incredibly urgent. In February 2020, before the pandemic lock downs began and borders closed, I visited our family compound in Calabar to capture video and photos in preparation for a future fundraising campaign. Little did I know that, simultaneously, the land was in the process of being sold by one of my family members. I imagined it might be my last time seeing the land again and the premature end of a long-time dream I’d harbored about transforming the space.

Fired up, I lobbied to stop the sale, sharing my long-term plans to convert the house and land. And while I was able to avert the sale, I now must purchase the land outright to secure it and begin development. Land loss has plagued black communities around the world for generations, and I'm determined to do my part to secure my family legacy. So I’m turning to you, my community, for support in taking this first step.

The importance of cultural preservation in the COVID-19 era cannot be overstated.

Since the pandemic began, the deaths of elders have robbed global communities and cultures of precious bonds and repositories of language and tradition. Both the gallery project and film are geared toward preserving not only my family’s story, but also that of the most ancient Nigerian ethnic group—the Ibibio, whose language and culture, primarily passed down orally, has only recently begun to be documented.

And with your help, this vital work can leap forward.

I’ve been asked, “Why do you want to put so much money and effort into that land?” My response: because we matter. Because our stories matter. And because, as Edward Said wrote, we must move from being objects to becoming subjects of our stories.

Whether you’re a historian, teacher, writer, filmmaker, or dancer, each of us has a role to play in creating the historical record. And the Elizabeth's Daughter Memoir Gallery & Artist Residency will demonstrate the critical importance of preservation, storytelling, and documentation; create a virtual community around this work; and foster a cadre of artists to build momentum for cultural preservation around the globe.

"The Ibibio elite resident at Calabar included David Ekot, a court clerk of Calabar Native Court, Paul Bassey Okon, a teacher at Duke Town School, Albert Offiong of the Medical Department, and Nyong Essien. In October 1924, Nyong Essien, an interpreter in the Supreme Court, invited mainland Ibibio to his house in Calabar and formed the Ibibio Association and Community League (commonly known as the Ibibio Union). [It] became the foremost political vehicle of Ibibio and Annang elites during the colonial period." (Pratten, David. The Man-Leopard Murders: History and Society in Colonial Nigeria. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2007.)

 

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been engaged in the work of preserving history, culture and tradition. When I was just 10 years old, my mother Elizabeth started a dance troupe, the Center for African Fashion and Cultural Awareness (CAFCA), in the basement of our home. Through CAFCA, she fulfilled her vision of sharing her Nigerian culture and tradition throughout Upstate New York, one of the first Africans in the area to do so.

Inspired by her, I continued to perform traditional dance as a Stanford University undergrad, and went on to earn an MFA in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. My multimedia work explores themes of familial relationships, home, migration, and the passing on of culture from the older to younger generations.

in the past 15+ years, I've been Communications & Marketing Director of two arts nonprofits and (most recently) a boutique consulting firm; have worked as a strategy and business consultant; launched several of my own creative ventures; and now help other people launch theirs.

My films have screened in 14 countries worldwide, including at the Panafrican Film & Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), the Durban International Film Festival, New York African Film Festival, and Zanzibar International Film Festival.

My short film, Aissa's Story, was a semifinalist in the 2013 Student Academy Awards, won Best Student Short at the 2014 Africa International Film Festival, and was a Best Short Film nominee at the 2015 Africa Movie Academy Awards.

A recipient of a Hedgebrook Writers’ Residency, I have contributed to Gawker, Okayafrica, Shadow & Act, Guernica, and Essence.com. And in 2019, I was a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow Finalist in Screenwriting from The New York Foundation for the Arts for my debut feature screenplay.

I realized, back in film school, that a fundraiser is not a transactional exercise, but rather an opportunity to share my work and build community around a dream—so it is with gratitude that I share mine with you today. I am deeply grateful to make real this notion that the work of preserving heritage, stories, language, and cultural artifacts is the most pressing need for humanity in a post-COVID world. And I thank you for your generous support.

For press or partnership opportunities, please email: iquomma@iquomma.com.

I've learned a lot on my journey as a creator and entrepreneur, and am excited to use my years of experience to produce a physical project that can shape many more lives than my own. I've got an established network of colleagues and collaborators to help make this dream possible. From a content perspective, I have the archive; from a resources perspective, I have access to the land, a local designer/architect, and potential development partners; and from a planning perspective, this project is a culmination of many years of dedicated work and ideation. I have the vision and fortitude to see this through. Despite all this, there may be setbacks.

The challenge with this project is the construction and mounting of the exhibit in the physical space. My contingency plan, in the event that I don’t reach the goal, is to create a pilot gallery exhibit in partnership with a museum/cultural space in the United States, and to catalogue and display the content archive in a beta virtual gallery. As I’ve created and managed many content archives and websites before, creating the virtual gallery will be a streamlined process for me that could potentially be built out even before the physical structure is completed. I will then leverage the exhibit and virtual gallery for additional grants and funding toward the memoir gallery and artist residency.

Regarding your donor rewards, my e-book, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures, has already been completed and will be sent to your email address on record at the completion of the campaign. For those who selected my Launch Your Dream or Crowdfund Your Dream courses as rewards, your login instructions will be delivered by email. T-shirts and tote bags will take a few weeks longer by snail mail after the campaign is finished.

I have an incredible network of experienced advisors to support me—and a reserve of skills garnered as a 15+ year creative professional. If you would like to know more about what I’ve learned from my fundraising and marketing background, visit www.crowdfunddream.com to hear how I help other artists and creative entrepreneurs launch successful projects, too.

The Campaign FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What do I get in exchange for my donation? As a special thank you for donations above $25, you will receive my e-book, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures. It's a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her.
  • If I can't donate money, what else can I do to support? Sharing means caring! Please post a link to the campaign page on social media or, better yet, text the link directly to 5-10 of your closest friends. If you can provide project support, partner support, or press leads, please contact me at iquomma@iquomma.com.

 

 

Maria Soriano
04/12/2021
Monetary Contribution
$100
Tayo Amos
04/11/2021
Monetary Contribution
$25
Vic DiSanto
04/11/2021
Monetary Contribution
$25
Ade Ogun
04/10/2021
Monetary Contribution
$15
Matching Funds sponsor
04/09/2021
Monetary Contribution
$295
Katia Sol
04/09/2021
Launch Your Dream Mini-Course
$50
04/08/2021
Elizabeth's Daughter e-book
$50
Kingsley Lasbrey
04/08/2021
Monetary Contribution
$10
Rahshiene Taha
04/08/2021
Elizabeth's Daughter e-book
$100
Martin Robert
04/08/2021
Monetary Contribution
$25
35.00 USD
Elizabeth's Daughter e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive my e-book, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures. It's a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her. In the "Message to the Entrepreneur" section, please note if you'd also like access to the Launch Your Dream course.

53 Supporters
Select this reward
50.00 USD
Launch Your Dream Mini-Course

Fund my dream and I'll help you launch yours! If you choose this reward, I will grant you lifetime access to my Launch Your Dream course. This 5-day, self-guided course will teach you how to launch your project or business, so you can stop dreaming and start living the life you want today. To find out more about Launch Your Dream, visit my website.

29 Supporters
Select this reward
100.00 USD
Elizabeth's Daughter e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive my e-book, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures. It's a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her. In the "Message to the Entrepreneur" section, please note if you'd also like access to the Launch Your Dream course.

54 Supporters
Select this reward
200.00 USD
Artwork - by Elton Leonard

Receive an 11x17 print by artist Elton Leonard (@thepeoplesartist.ny). Select from one of five designs, including: Cecily Tyson; Ilhan Omar; Oshun Woman; Mother & Child; and Be Free. View your options here.

20 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
275.00 USD
Elizabeth's Daughter tote bag + e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive the official Elizabeth's Daughter tote bag and my e-book—Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures, a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her.

45 Left
5 Supporters
Select this reward
300.00 USD
Crowdfund Your Dream Online Course

Fund my dream and I'll help fund yours! Choose this reward for lifetime access to Crowdfund Your Dream, my flagship fundraising and marketing course for artists and entrepreneurs.

The self-guided online course—composed of video modules, a workbook, bonus materials, and virtual support—will teach you how to launch a fundraising or marketing campaign in just 60 days. Learn how to plan, manage, market, and measure your campaign for success!

I'm super excited to offer this reward to help get your dream project going. The course is valued at more than $8K, available for purchase for $1249, but you can get it today for just $300.

For more info on Crowdfund Your Dream, visit my website.

2 Supporters
Select this reward
500.00 USD
ED T-shirt + tote + e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive the official Elizabeth's Daughter T-shirt plus tote bag and my e-book—Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures, a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her. Please specify your shirt size and fit (ie, Men's or Women's) in the Message to the Entrepreneur section.

48 Left
2 Supporters
Select this reward
1,000.00 USD
Let's Build!

As a special thank you for your donation, choose from any and all of the above rewards PLUS get a special 1-hr virtual session with me to discuss your dream project and how I can help you get it out there. My consultation services are valued at a minimum $150 per hour. Check out my calendar to learn more!

10 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward

Rewards

35.00 USD
Elizabeth's Daughter e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive my e-book, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures. It's a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her. In the "Message to the Entrepreneur" section, please note if you'd also like access to the Launch Your Dream course.

53 Supporters
Select this reward
50.00 USD
Launch Your Dream Mini-Course

Fund my dream and I'll help you launch yours! If you choose this reward, I will grant you lifetime access to my Launch Your Dream course. This 5-day, self-guided course will teach you how to launch your project or business, so you can stop dreaming and start living the life you want today. To find out more about Launch Your Dream, visit my website.

29 Supporters
Select this reward
100.00 USD
Elizabeth's Daughter e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive my e-book, Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures. It's a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her. In the "Message to the Entrepreneur" section, please note if you'd also like access to the Launch Your Dream course.

54 Supporters
Select this reward
200.00 USD
Artwork - by Elton Leonard

Receive an 11x17 print by artist Elton Leonard (@thepeoplesartist.ny). Select from one of five designs, including: Cecily Tyson; Ilhan Omar; Oshun Woman; Mother & Child; and Be Free. View your options here.

20 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward
275.00 USD
Elizabeth's Daughter tote bag + e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive the official Elizabeth's Daughter tote bag and my e-book—Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures, a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her.

45 Left
5 Supporters
Select this reward
300.00 USD
Crowdfund Your Dream Online Course

Fund my dream and I'll help fund yours! Choose this reward for lifetime access to Crowdfund Your Dream, my flagship fundraising and marketing course for artists and entrepreneurs.

The self-guided online course—composed of video modules, a workbook, bonus materials, and virtual support—will teach you how to launch a fundraising or marketing campaign in just 60 days. Learn how to plan, manage, market, and measure your campaign for success!

I'm super excited to offer this reward to help get your dream project going. The course is valued at more than $8K, available for purchase for $1249, but you can get it today for just $300.

For more info on Crowdfund Your Dream, visit my website.

2 Supporters
Select this reward
500.00 USD
ED T-shirt + tote + e-book

As a special thank you for your donation, you will receive the official Elizabeth's Daughter T-shirt plus tote bag and my e-book—Elizabeth’s Daughter in Words and Pictures, a series of photos and linked essays about my late mother’s life and my return to Nigeria to write about her. Please specify your shirt size and fit (ie, Men's or Women's) in the Message to the Entrepreneur section.

48 Left
2 Supporters
Select this reward
1,000.00 USD
Let's Build!

As a special thank you for your donation, choose from any and all of the above rewards PLUS get a special 1-hr virtual session with me to discuss your dream project and how I can help you get it out there. My consultation services are valued at a minimum $150 per hour. Check out my calendar to learn more!

10 Left
0 Supporters
Select this reward