I wanted to talk with you about your video art – how did you get into creating videos in the first place and what fascinates you about it?
When I was much younger, after finishing secondary school, I wanted to go to university to study film. But my father wasn’t having that, he didn’t want to hear anything about studying film, he was like, “why do you want to be on TV?” and I was like, “No, I want to be behind the TV” (laughs). But he didn’t allow me to study film so I went in for multimedia and internet technology. Thankfully, before I signed up for my course, we were given a sheet with different options to choose from and I saw digital animation on there. There was no film course at my campus at the time, but there was digital animation and so I changed to that. I thought to myself that if I couldn’t do film, at least I could do animation and get to do some content for Nigerian children, more Nigerian- and African-based animated content.
But what I really wanted to do was film, it was something that I had been drawn to for a long time back then. However, when I finished university and started working in the film and TV industry, and then started doing my own small projects little by little, I got to a point where I didn’t really know who I was as an artist. I thought I wanted to do film, I thought I was a filmmaker. But the ideas I was coming up with and the visuals I was creating didn’t really fall in line with what you would call “regular film” or classic, general film-making. Until I delved deeper into that and figured, okay, what I really do is video art, not film.
Video art doesn’t necessarily follow a narrative or a linear pattern, it’s just much more conceptual & abstract- and I love it, I love it, I really do!
And how do you get from an idea to a finished video?
It generally takes a lot of pacing up and down the room (laughs). When the ideas come, they move around in my head, most times I think in visuals, so I see pictures in my head. I would say that it usually starts with a feeling, because a lot of the video work I do is based on my life, my lived experience and the lived experiences that I share with other human beings. So, the ideas literally just come from living, from interacting with other people, from the kind of energy that I’m feeling at a certain point in my life or the things that are on my mind that I want to speak of. And then from there certain visuals start coming up for me. When I think of something, I would see a picture and I’d note it down. Sometimes I don’t note them down, though, and they float away… but so this has been my process so far, these visuals in my head & mind and then bringing them to life.
However, I’m also moving to a place now where I’m challenging myself to do things in the opposite direction. So instead of starting with saying, okay, I’ll do these shots and then I’ll put them together, I now start to work in reverse of that. I know what the theme is, I know what I want to say with the work and then I go out, capture the footage. I get as much as I can and then come back and build it up. So right now, I’m doing more of gathering the material before lining it up.
When the ideas come, they move around in my head. Most times I think in visuals, so I see pictures in my head.
I wanted to talk to you about a video piece of yours that I felt especially drawn to, “Here”.
That project started with- and this is what I say about ideas just come and just living- me reading a poem by Nigerian author and poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo. The first line of the poem was, “I carry many storms within me” another line goes…”have been my night and my sunshine.” That really was the catalyst for that work and it deeply resonated with what I was going through at the time.
There were thoughts in my head processing the way our lived experiences form our sense of self, thoughts about the way our memories and the situations that we’ve been through in life somehow build these layers of self that we have within. And how for me, as someone who follows my indigenous spiritual traditions -I’m not Christian, I’m not Muslim, I don’t practice any organized religion- a lot of things were and are filtered through that. I make corelations with that because the tradition speaks to these things a lot and it’s a territory that is so far unexplored to a good extent, especially by the younger generation, I would say. So, I processed that and I started thinking about the poem and how it resonated with my life.
It brought up the correlation with iron, with metal, with a blacksmith is working his tools. How iron is raw at first and then being pounded and beaten and put into fire- for me, that’s a metaphor for all we go through in life. But then all of this beating and being thrust into fire also sort of builds our adaptability, and at the end of it you come out with what I would call a “defined sense of self”. Or maybe you don’t come out with that defined sense of self, but it’s about that process and the process of building yourself- different layers of self forming from accumulated memories and experiences.
In the Yoruba spiritual tradition the God of Iron is Ogun and he is a symbol of adaptability- being the god of the iron smiths and with all what I just said about iron. Also, if you read the story of Ogun and about all he went through…he was a king who inadvertently killed his people, and apparently also himself with his own sword, was swallowed up by the earth and had to literally start all over again becoming an orisa. So, when it comes to my piece “Here”, it was all of these things tied into one another that brought up the idea for the video.
How iron is raw at first and then being pounded and beaten and put into fire- for me, that’s a metaphor for all we go through in life.