Female Nigerian artist Yewande Ambeke for Suboart Magazine Interview 2022
Yewande showcasing some of her “Yellow Swirls” series.
Picture by Jimmy Hassel for The Hassel Studios

My challenges

I guess I’d say my major challenge is the mental aspect related to being an artist, in the sense that you go out and see so many amazing artists, and you could get intimidated that, or influenced by what’s trending in the market right now.

As an artist, having to stay authentic to who you are, the mental hurdle of creating, regardless of what the art market says, regardless of what’s in vogue, regardless of rejection emails, that’s a challenge in itself.

Rejection emails are a part of every artist. I don’t think it’s something we talk about enough. Choosing to create in spite of that was a challenge but I have grown considerably in that regard. Like a friend once said, those rejection emails are trainings to grow my ‘application muscles’.

As a second challenge, or rather a concern that needs to be sorted is convincing my family that art is a noble profession. I’d mention being trained as a pharmacist and coming from a family of academicians, so being an artist isn’t seen as something that can be sustainable or used to get a regular source of income. They don’t see it as a profession, so I’ve been trying to show them that it is as noble as being a pharmacist or a doctor because as artists, we have a lot of power to bring up new topics and ideas, start conversations, make people see and feel things and I’m trying to show my family that.

It would be my greatest joy to have have my family see art as a noble profession.

Painting by emerging female artist Yewande Ambeke from Nigeria for Suboart Magazine Interview 2022
Contemplate, 2022
Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 30 inches

Women artists

There are female artists, but they are not as visible as male artists. I think that institutions generally favour men, so yes, there’s still that inequality. But I think that over the time in Lagos, there are more women-focused, female-themed exhibitions. There is a steady rise in female curators and there are more galleries owned by women. This is going to result to a change in that imbalance over time, and I really can’t wait to see that happen. I have quite a number of friends who are female artists who are doing quite well in their practice. Some of them are Korede Àrémo, Janet Adegoke, Janet Adebayo, Jessica Soares and Adetutu.

I think it’s just a matter of time before the world actually sees female artists for what they really are.

Can art be a remedy?

I truly believe that art can be a remedy. Apart from the fact that I have a personal experience with that, apart from the fact that it helped me come out of the dark phase, there are actually courses for art therapy sessions for people who are facing challenges, for them to express their feelings with art. So yes, art is a tool that can be used to help people, and certainly those who are facing mental challenges, those who have depression or anxiety.

It can also help to foster communication amongst individuals, it can help bring out that child in everybody, it can offer hope and joy.  There is this intangible thing about art… these emotions that you can’t put into words that it’s able to make you feel once you are connecting with it or creating it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and that’s the state of mind I work with when I create. I move with no perfectionism, I just move with how I feel when I’m working and I wish everybody could have that. If they can’t have that, then I wish that they can at least connect with artworks and see something beyond the regular routine they have.

I think that art can afford us that break in our daily routines- to open our eyes to so many things that we never would have imagined.

Art has the ability to make one vulnerable because you have to open yourself to see. Some people might say: “well, it’s just some paint…” But you need a certain level of receptiveness to see beyond what your physical eyes can see- you have to open your heart and mind- and in the process of doing that, you open up parts of yourself that you normally wouldn’t. I think that’s the beauty of being an artist and having to engage with art.

I think that art can heal the world, really. It just might take a long time for everybody to see that, but I believe it has so much power, and I can’t wait for people to realize that.

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