More Branches Talks To Ozioma Jekein Unah.

More Branches caught up with Ozioma Jekein Unah, multidisciplinary creative Lagos, Nigeria. We spoke about life, her art style and sexism in the art community.

What’s your real name, who are you and what are you ? What’s life to you ?

Ozioma : My real name Ozioma Jekein Unah but i’m known as Jekein Lato-Unah. Who is Jekein? She’s a Nigerian multidisciplinary artist who reimagines portraiture for a modernized world. She is an artist whose vibrant works of art tackles social constructs by breaking down her pieces into patterns and fragments of both color and monochrome. Life is being the light in other people’s lives.

Can art save a soul ?

Ozioma : Definitely, people are saved all the time by art. art is not only a form of self expression, it is therapeutic as well. Art is a transformative process that can be used for constructive change. Personally, art healed me — i was hurting so bad at a time that i had no words, only expressions in form of paint which made me release all the negativity i was feeling at the time.

What is your art style ?

Ozioma : My creativity, the repetitive strategies that are constantly visible in my pieces. but in all honesty? i haven’t found a style that makes me feel untouchable so i’m currently exploring, creating new styles and until i find myself, i’ll stick to be being versatile. The only way to find your own individual style is to try out as many different styles as possible, that’s where an identity originates from. a lot of creatives like to disagree with pablo’s “art is theft” statement but when you draw inspiration from someone, somewhere or something & the world itself is art, where is the lie? you can only adopt a style & infuse your creativity with it. achieving a level of versatility is one step to being untouchable — i make hair, nails, clay work, African print bags, paintings, drawings, sculptures, furnitures & furniture art so before you know it, the world is my playground. Until i narrow my focus & own my signature style? versatility it is.

Does sexism exist in our growing art culture ?

Ozioma : Yes, we live in a patriarchal world- no matter how hard we try to fight it, sexism is deeply imbedded in the art world. i’ve been told severally that a woman’s place is not the drawing board or canvas, it’s in the kitchen and the other room but we are not our mothers and grandmothers. we will continue to defy society & it’s useless perception of a woman’s place.

Is the culture supporting the art society financially ?

Ozioma : Funding comes from private individuals & art collectors. it’s growing alright but there’s also a lot of ass kissing, favoritism & pressure on young artists to be who they are not. about funding, African administrations are unaware of the economical prowess they could achieve by promoting & funding artists, projects, art organizations et all so it’s really all on private individuals right now.

Africa is a third world nation but changes have begun, we’re growing.. What are the few problems you still identify and how can art impact them with solutions in its own way.

Ozioma : Tourism, art attracts tourists. takes us back to the government funding art projects, exhibitions & art organizations. if our countries are always in the news for terrorism & corruption, we can bring some positivity with our art. we have some of the most amazing creatives from this part of the world & we’re not doing everything we can to make them shine. investors are looking to turn lagos into a tourism spot but it’s not something i can talk about lengthily until i’m given permission to do so.

Explain the dimensions stored within your art ?

Ozioma : I love patterns, African motifs. My style was inspired by Victor Ehikhamenor & i’ve made it my own. that’s what i meant by exploring & creating an identity for yourself. I’ve created so many pieces out of inspiration & my interest for African motifs & mystic symbols like the satanic, hermetic, norse, kabbalistic symbols.