acrylic paint with paper, plastic and glass on Masonite
H x W: 72 × 42 × 2 5/16 in. (182.9 × 106.7 × 5.8 cm)
Union of Saint and Venus is inspired by a rumored relationship between Pope Clement VII and an enslaved woman named Simonetta da Collevecchio, resulting in the birth of Alessandro de Medici (the Duke of Florence and Penne).
Ekpuk’s painting critiques the Catholic Church’s role in perpetuating the slave trade and how it benefited from this cruel institution. Twin papal staffs entering the body of a prostrate black woman signify this disturbing connection between the church and the African continent. The pope’s papal miter is decorated with gems, slave sale posters, and excerpts from the Dum Diversas, a 1454 decree issued by Pope Nicholas V that sanctioned the practice of conquering, subjugating, and enslaving Muslim Arabs and pagans—in this case, non-Christian Africans
Painting depicting the pope's mitre composed of red-tinted textual clippings and encrusted with faux-jewels. The text includes both Latin and English copies of the Dum Diversas, images of the Brookes Slave Ship, and advertisements for the purchasing of enslaved persons. A white line figure wears the mitre and uses two golden croziers as a symbolic phallus to penetrate the black abstract figure of the South African Khoikhoi woman Sarah Baartman, which lies horizontally beneath the pope figure. The light grey background is composed of many varied and repeating abstract figures including a ship carrying enslaved persons, shackles, a trio of enslaved figures, and crosses.