Zak Ové works with sculpture, film and photography to explore African identity, the African diaspora and African history, building on his own experience of growing up in a mixed-race family in both London and Trinidad, or as he says "black power on one side and... social feminism on the other". Through his sculptural figures, concocted from a dynamic assortment of materials, and resembling African and Trinidadian statuary, Ové plays with notions of identity, positing the self as complex, open, and interconnected. In 2015, he became the first Caribbean artist to be commissioned by the British Museum, with his pair of seven-metre high Moko Jumbie sculptures exhibited in the Great Court as part of the Celebrating Africa exhibition The work has since become permanently installed in their Africa gallery since March 2017.
Ové says he seeks to "reignite and reinterpret lost culture using new-world materials, whilst paying tribute to both spiritual and artistic African identity". In this work, he uses graphite to explore what he describes as "future world black". The artist is constantly seeking ways to express recognisable, traditional African forms whilst avoiding the predictable use of ebony, and exploring the sculptural possibilities of more contemporary materials, such as plastic. The form of the figure on which 'Black and Blue: The Invisible Man and the Masque of Blackness' is based is a small dark wood sculpture given to him as a child by his father, acclaimed filmmaker Horace Ové, in the 1970s. The way in which the original sculpture has travelled across land and time, has been adapted and re-shaped, thereby acquiring new layers of meaning, is a metaphor for the complexities of contemporary identity. Although the gesture is taken from a traditional, existing form, the raised hands resonate with and reference current tensions and the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
Editions of this artwork have been exhibited in the courtyard at Somerset House as part of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair (2016); Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2017); and San Francisco Civic Centre Plaza, San Francisco, USA (2018).