The first time I met Chigozie Obi was back in December of 2018 at the Born in Africa Festival (BAFEST), the first instalment of the annual art, film, and music festival curated by Access Bank. The 22-year-old had her art stall set out in one corner of the exhibition tent. Her vibrant paintings drew me closer to her.
Her paintings are aesthetic, courtesy of different materials from charcoal, oil paint, acrylic paint, spray paint, watercolour, confetti, and ink. Just like her Instagram feeds showcases her work, Chigozie’s art has also been showcased at Terrakulture gallery in Lagos, African Artists Foundation (AAF) in Lagos and Art Village Gallery in Memphis.
Its been two years since my encounter with her and I finally got in touch with her and we talk about her journey since then, how she’s using her art to tell a modern-day story, and why she chooses to use her website to raise awareness concerning racism.
Tell us what it means to be a visual artist and how you started out?
Being a visual artist means expressing yourself through arts, for me, I started painting before I got into university. I wasn’t supposed to study visual art but after convincing my father, I was able to venture into visual art and I started practising with different materials and new things that eventually got me to where I am today. With my art I have been able to create some awareness, to talk about some issues that affect me personally and the society I live in, things like depression, insecurity, beauty standards, gender inequality, and stereotypes. I’m a feminist and my work focuses on women mostly, I think I have been able to touch on some topics women face in society.
Also since 2018, I have started applying mixed media to my artwork, now I use different materials to work on my canvas and not just oil paint.
What something else you could have gone into apart being a visual artist?
I think I would have gone into something art-related, either music, fashion design, or probably interior design.
Fashion design sounds quite interesting…. is there any Fashion Brand/Designer you Fancy?
I don’t think I have a specific brand or designer I fancy….. I just see random outfits and like them but I don’t exactly look into the brand.
You met Jidenna once, how did that made you feel?
I was still in school back then, we were actually invited to the museum for Jidenna’s album listening and I decided to do a painting of him, it was nice meeting him, I wasn’t all that “Crazy” about meeting him though and he actually liked the painting I gave him.
You are also a huge fan of Beyonce, do you think she’s impactful?
Yes!, She’s very impactful, she motivates me to do better as a female also, she’s always empowering women and people in general, she works hard and she’s very precise in what she does. She’s also a very generous person, a lot of work goes into what she does and I admire that. I hope to also be like that in my field.
How does it feel to be a visual artist in Lagos?
It’s a bit tasking because Lagos itself is a very stressful city there’s so much going on. The economy of being in Nigeria is not easy, for a full-time visual artist like me, you don’t get paid a particular salary, months could pass without selling any arts and some months could be good. Generally, it’s quite a lade, you need a lot of assurance, confidence, strength to keep on pushing.
Have you ever felt like quitting ?
Well not necessarily, I have not really thought of quitting because there’s literally nothing I would choose rather than visual art, yes there’s are times I have gotten really tired but it’s more like I just want to quit everything in life as oppose just quitting visual art.
Tell us how you felt when the pandemic started compared to now that some certain restrictions have been lifted, how has the pandemic affected you in general?
To be honest the pandemic hasn’t really affected me that much. I’m much of an introvert, I have my studio set up at home so I work from home. It wasn’t much different from the way I used to live, now I actually miss going to some places like the beach but I still feel like I’m not really affected like the way other people are.
So what have you been working on, any new project?
I have been working on two series, in particular, the first is titled “A Seat at The Table” which illustrates women of different careers. From low-income jobs to high earners it seeks to honour women working in all occupational fields, showing them in their element and capturing their stories. The second one is “Coming Up For Air” it presents women in opposition to what they’ve been frequently told to change about themselves. This body of work focuses on illustrating women as confident, content, and comfortable in contrast to what they have been told to be.
Noticed you are using your website to raise awareness concerning racism, how did that come to be?
It more of an online awareness platform, to educate people on racism and the Black Lives Matters movement. It very important for individuals to be aware of the happenings concerning the issue, it an unfair thing, and people should help in whatever way they can through donation, going for protest, and signing of petitions.
What changes would like to see in the society and also in the Art industry Post-Covid- 19?
I think I just want more precaution to be taken to make sure everywhere is safer, I think more about virtual things also because I don’t think life would continue the way it was before. So more of virtual things to make accessibility easier for individuals.