In Conversation With An Artist- Ndidi Emefiele
When it comes to making the more obscure absolutely beautiful Ndidi Emiefele has that talent in spades with her über cool paintings depicting beauty in all forms of all kinds. Her work is energetic, it jumps right at you, and unabashedly in your face. From going against the grain for what she loves to her desert island picks, here is the artist in conversation with…
1. A recurrent subject in your work is the female – with your previous collection being title unmatched beauty? What about the African/Nigerian woman influences your art (with you of course being one)? What are their stories you are telling through your art?
I'm an artist who is surrounded by women and being one, I can relate to their experiences and struggles, basically what we go through on a daily basis, there is so much that society foist on you and I feel compelled to express it through my works. there are certain traditions where the voice of a woman is forbidden in certain situations. The women are relegated to just domestic activities. Their voices are refused audience. I have had pieces like "in to the walls" where the female is gradually fading into the background. Art gives that platform for sort of a silent revolt.
2. Two of my favourite paintings are Waiting and Untamed II. Can you talk us through the meaning/inspiration behind them both?
Waiting series stems from the pressures from loved ones and strangers alike mounted on any single woman in her prime to find a husband and settle down. They constantly ask "what are you waiting for" and she just might be waiting for Mr right. While they are waiting to see you marry, you are waiting for the right one at some point we are all waiting for something to occur even in our subconscious.
Untamed and Waiting are closely related in the sense that she can't be tamed; not necessarily because she is wild but because her joy can't be tamed. Its a happy spirit that wants to let loose.
3. At what age did you know you were an artist and decided to pursue your talent?
Pretty early, I was already participating in Art competitions since I was 7 years old. Although people would question my decision to be an artist and advice I went for something related with some prestige attached.
When I was old enough to decide, I decided well and obtained a degree in it. Art is something I have done all my Life.
4. I love your use of mixed media in your work. It is a thoroughly modern interpretation and is unconventional with the recycling of materials like fabric and compact discs. Can you talk us through some of the methods you use and what inspired you to do so?
I have had a growing obsession with glasses and of late it has been the existence of the super-natural. The glasses- I never wanted people to look into my eyes, their ability to see through would make me feel less powerful. so the glasses served as a shield to protect my emotions, vulnerability, fears, pains etc in sort of an empowering way. With my paintings being an extension of me, I felt a need to create shields for them too. That’s where it evolved so I sought to find materials suitable for this. I realised I could do a lot with the compact disc; flexible frames and adhesives materials I use vary based on the subject matter.
5. The representation of the female body is something that I find interesting in art and is a theme that is explored by many greats, with one of my favourite artists being Frida Kahlo who does somewhat challenging body self portraiture.
How do you see the representation of the female body in your works, especially in a somewhat conservative society such as Nigeria? The works that springs to mine instantly is the Garden or Eden series I, II, III and Undressed from Innocence.
I love to celebrate the female form, which I consider the most sophisticated Art form. Some people are repulsed by the depiction of the raw form of the woman. It’s definitely a conservative society but it hasn't deterred me from expressing what I feel. Garden of Eden dealt with the theme of beauty and temptation and the woman being the modern Eden and responsible for the fall of many a man it had depiction of women of various forms with some surrealist approach and free flow of lines, merging bodies and forms together.
6. Which artists/art movements would you say have inspired you or perhaps influenced your work/thinking the most?
Some have inspired me by their achievements, while others their works. Mummy Nike Okundaye has inspired so many, her enormous contribution to the growth of young female artist. Works of Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, great strides in the global art scene by Ghanaian artist El-Anatsui and many others.
7. I understand that you are the founder of the Ndigo Arts and Fashion gallery? Please tell us more about it.
Ndigo Arts and Fashion Gallery is still in the making. The Arts is on, still working on the fashion aspect. I want to create wearable Art. Fashion that is purely Arts but classy. It might not be everyone's cup of tea but for one who wants to make a statement and stand out.
8. What do you think of the teaching of art in Nigerian schools? And do you think that it has become a more acceptable practice to specialise in as opposed to the traditional academic subjects? What has your personal experience been like?
Arts has always been on the syllabus but there has been an unavailability of Art teachers. Being an artist is something that is growing on the minds of Nigerian parents. I have had several parents come seeking advice for their kids who are excelling in Arts in school. They want to know if a career in it would be a dead end as often perceived.people generally are beginning to have an open mind towards it. Arts appreciation is on the increase.
9. You previously cited fashion as having influenced your work. What about fashion/who in fashion has inspired you and how?
I love retro fashion, there's something beautiful in taking the old and making it new. The big hair, the clothing. I use fabrics and wrappers our mothers had on. I recycle my mothers old wrapper, it has power to travel the minds of the audience. I had a viewer say "that fabric just made me remember my mum". It plays on sentiments and can tell a story effortlessly. My Art is a mix of several fashion elements. I like to show how the modern woman is evolving.
There are lots of eyewear designers who's designs i find very fascinating; Paloma Picasso, Emmanuelle Khanh, Linda Farrow, Cazal and many more vintage eyewear designers.
10. Do you have any exhibitions coming soon that we can view your masterpieces?
Thank you. I have my next solo scheduled towards the end of may this year. I have the art auction in may also at Art house contemporary Lagos and some others, with a few international ones I’m also working towards.
11. Lastly, if you were stuck on an island, what book, food/drink and person would you take with you?
Book would be the Bible, for some sort of comfort. Chicken salad with lots of chicken in it. a huge jar of freshly squeezed orange juice. I’ll have to take my sister, I have been stuck with her for the most part of my life and I survived, I wish she didn’t like orange juice too for its longevity.