Art & CultureEditors Choice

Stop,Listen! – Bara Sketchbook

Right now, I am focused on family and the loss of family. So, I am using two hues to be able to capture these themes; purple and blue. Through those two colours I am able to tell my story, tell my truth.

Could you please introduce yourself?
— My name in Bara Sketchbook and I have been practicing art professionally for three years now. During that period, I have come to realize that it is more than just having a talent or having an ability to be able to understand figures, colours, textures or any other element of art. It is about documenting your existence. What do I mean by that? I mean; Who are you? Who are your people? What are they going through? What are they saying? What is your voice? If painting is your voice, if dancing is your voice, if defending people before a judge is your voice, if taking people through surgery is your voice. Then use that voice and document your people’s truth. I came to that point three years ago, and that was when my career began.

Your work is full of colours, how do you view the relationship between colours and identities?
— I see colours as individuals. In my earlier series, the series I was working on before where I am now, I tried as much as possible to create these human beings whose skin had vibrant, radiant colours, but you could not give them any identities. You could not say that this individual is Caucasian, or that this individual is Nubian, or Hispanic or Asian. You could just identify with them as a human being. The very minute you start to select one colour you put people in boxes. That is one of the major problems of race. And that was what I was trying to say in my earlier series.

And where are you right now in your artistic practice?
— Right now, I am focused on family and the loss of family. So, I am using two hues to be able to capture these themes; purple and blue. Through those two colours I am able to tell my story, tell my truth.

Could you talk about the works that are part of this exhibition? What do you aim to say through these pieces?
— I am showing two pieces, in one the them; Martha’s Husband I was trying to capture a memory. Right now, the both of us just met, three to five years from now on, we might still meet again. And then we can say; do you remember when we had that interview? So, right now we are creating a memory for the future. So, in that very painting I was trying to capture one singular memory as regards to the future. And what was the memory I was trying to capture? The fact that there are people in our lives who may not be there ten to twenty years from now. But they are there now and later on when they are not, we will cherish the memories that we have.

Does any of your work touch on the End SARS movement?
— A lot of people died during the End SARS protests, a lot of young kids died. It made a lot of sense to me that we are trying to capture and honor the memory of the kids who died. It is not going to end as a hashtag. I have no choice but to speak up. In one of the paintings; Silas and Chioma, there is a boy and girl who are standing up boldly, right in front of you and they are not ashamed of who they are, they are not ashamed of what they stand for.
You can clearly see that they are young, but their poses are intricated, because as delicate as their poses are, they are also very strong, they are very profound. You cannot just push them aside. The girl has one hand balancing on the boy’s shoulder and he is looking through you. Basically, they are trying to let you know that; We are young, we may not have that much experience, but we know that what is happening right now is not ok, and we are not going to stand for it.

As an artist in Nigeria, what do you feel some of the challenges are and how are things progressing?
— Social media has been amazing. Through primarily Instagram, I have been able to connect with an international community. It was challenging a few years ago because people did not appreciate art. But right now, there is a renaissance going on in West Africa as regards to Black contemporary art. There is a huge wave because we are trying to reinterpret what African art is, and what it is going to say ten to fifteen years from now. So, as challenging as it may be, it is important to be part of the conversation.
Basically, I do not see this as work, it is what I was born to do. I have no choice but to do it. And it is beautiful because I enjoy the process.

What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
— For now, this body of work I am working on, I need to access the beauty of my people from their skin to their hair. I aspired to capture my mother’s heritage not only for their beauty, but for the stories that connect them. The fabric of my subjects captures their intricate history. As their skin, hair and eyes display a rich, confluence of generationally diverse, African beauty. The tender but bold poses in each story, a desperately loving attempt to conjure the spirit of my recently departed mother. So, this body of work is very inspired by my family; my mother is from Sierra Leone and my father is from Nigeria. I think about the stories my grandfather told my mother and my mother told me. I have a lot of brothers and sisters, and I get inspired when I think about the dynamics and the relationships, and you know how it was when everybody was growing up. And now some of them are lawyers and some are doctors or writers. I am the only painter in the whole flock. I think of the relationships between all of us and how it makes me feel. I remember the first time when I told my parents that I wanted to be a painter, how they felt then. How they reacted. All those things, all those moments are inspiring me. They are my sources of inspiration. Telling the story of how beautiful my tribe is. Two parts of Africa came together and formed a tiny little tribe; Our family. There are a lot of things going on within us, the beautiful things, the sad things, the annoying things. Everything about it, I am documenting.

That is the ultimate tribe? Family?
— Yes, exactly. If everything is done wrong there, at your primary source of education, your family, it is going to be very difficult to get that individual effected straight.

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*The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.

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