The portraits of Toyin Ojih Odutola engage with the African American experience as it intersects with pressing issues such as socio-economic inequality, the legacy of colonialism, and gender and sexual identity. Many of her works offer close-up renderings of Black figures, the intricate details of which merge with each other to convey the emotionally charged expressions of her protagonists.
In Actual Fiction, the subject of the drawing is placed against a pitch-black background, which leaves the eyes as the only feature that is easily identifiable, while the rest of the features can only be distinguished through a close observation of the flowing marks that constitute the texture of the face. Even when the contours of the face become relatively clear to the spectator, however, the pensive expression on the face remains mysterious and indecipherable. By pushing the portrait into the realm of the abstract both in terms of its form and content, Odutola hints at the ways in which Black bodies have been made invisible within contemporary society.