Fostering Support Systems among African Women: In Conversation With Ogochukwu Ejiofor


Ejiofor explores topics of inner reflection, self-worth, assertiveness, and female bonding among African women through mixed media and installation art.


 



My Support, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2022 by artist, Ogochukwu Ejiofor. Artwork displayed at NXT.ART Pavilion 2022, Lagos by Africa NXT.
My Support, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2022. Ogochukwu Ejiofor.

Ejiofor's works investigate inner reflection, contemplation, self-worth, assertiveness, and female bonding as a panacea to the trauma experienced by African women.

She bases her research on the Igbo culture philosophy, illustrating the essence of a support system across women of different generations.


In her Mixed Media painting ‘My Support’, Ejiofor portrays reflections of the travails women go through and “how they get through what they go through”.

Exploring how Female bonding helps women cross over a vulnerable and traumatic phase (violence, damage to self ego, abuse)

She depicts women who support women & help younger generations, assisting in their journey as they attempt to become more.

In her words “Every woman should have a support system - to help take life one day at a time”.

“Every woman should have a support system - to help take life one day at a time”.

Interview with Ogochukwu Ejiofor

The artist’s words have been edited for length and clarity.


Artworks by Ogochukwu Ejiofor.  Artwork displayed at NXT.ART Pavilion 2022, Lagos by Africa NXT.
Artworks by Ogochukwu Ejiofor


What inspires your style?


I am inspired by people, events and experiences. My artworks are another way to write in a diary, the only difference is that it's not private, it's shared with the public. I mostly use the positive experiences and only in rare cases do I document the negative events. My work carries the image of a lady in a farm field, harvesting different fruits and tasting them one after another, to be sure they are right, before setting it into her basket. Hence why you may not see one particular style or texture in my work.



What sort of experimentation has led you to your current style as an artist?


I love to explore... Explorations make me boil with excitement cause I don't know what will come out. I realised that I love textures in my work so I explore with materials that may not be dangerous to my health or harmful to others. I have experimented with many materials. But I settled for waste, especially paper. I use paper in different ways to achieve results. I understand the materials very well so I can manipulate it as much as I can.




Artist, Ogochukwu Ejiofor in her Home Studio. Image Courtesy the Artist. 2022
Artist, Ogochukwu Ejiofor in her Home Studio, 2022. Image Courtesy the Artist.


Why did you start making art? How did you kickstart your artistic endeavour?


My brother was the one who made me go into art. Back then in our primary school, he was very popular for knowing how to draw. I wanted to be popular too. I went to him and asked him how he drew what he drew. He told me that it's a make believe, I don't really need to draw to perfection before they will love my drawing, also i shouldn't join the majority in class to say "i don't know how to draw". He also told me how he copied pictures from magazines but his best at the time was 2D action figures with biceps like road bumps. Depending on how powerful he wants to depict the fellow, it may be 2 to 3 bumps. I learnt to copy from story books and magazines and with time I learnt to copy and sketch difficult pictures. It became a hobby. Although my brother turned to other things as a hobby, my passion for drawing just grew.



What other artists, genres or movements do you draw inspiration from?


A lot comes to mind when we talk about inspiring artists. I have gotten advice from so many, some I took while some I threw away, but there are three Nigerian artists who have become a cornerstone in my heart when I talk about my art journey and improvements, Sam Ovraiti, Promise O'neill and George Odoh. These three have imparted my life and my works. Their styles are quite different from each other, yet I have been able to use a thread to link them all together to help me as an artist.


If you could change one aspect of society or social issues through your work, what would it be?


Wow ....! That would be a great honour and I would like to stop corruption in all ramifications. To me this is the reason the country isn't moving forward, and don't get me wrong. Corruption isn't just a political ideology, it's an individual human behaviour which can also be linked to excessive selfishness. If everyone loves and gives without holding back, multiply this action through the Nigerian population, you will see that lots of things will change. I’ll just stop here for now.



What do you do to get into your creative zone?


Music is one of the things that help me get into my creativity, Thoughts Of ‘What ifs?’ The best part is taking energy from someone in the same zone as I am, e.g. visiting other artists in their studio, even if they aren’t working but the vibe the studio gives influences me to want to work.



A Thinking Woman, Mixed Media, 2022  by artist, Ogochukwu Ejiofor. Artwork displayed at NXT.ART Pavilion 2022, Lagos by Africa NXT.
A Thinking Woman, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2022. Ogochukwu Ejiofor.

What are the biggest challenges you've had in your art?


That’s funny now when i think about it, cause now i see it not as a challenge but as a lesson i needed for my growth. There was a time when I couldn't feed myself and I lived in a one room apartment, but the load inside was almost swallowing me up. I couldn't even pay my rent and I decided to get a job so I could support myself and my art, but I ended up working for 3 months. In all those 3 months I was always sick because of the stress level. I quit in the 3rd month and it occurred to me that I am not made to work for others. That was a trying time, no zeal to paint, too tired to even have an idea buzz in my head.


What ultimate messages do your creative expressions convey?


My creative expression says to my audience, “love and support one another, remember to take out joy in whatever you are going through, enjoy the memories you have as a child and learn not to worry more as an adult. Be happy.”



What other Art practice are you venturing into?


I sometimes write poems and short stories and teach art in my studio. I also love to create ‘Do it Yourself’ (DIY) crafts.


Has technology had any impact on your artistic practice? In what ways has it affected or shaped it?


Yes, technology has uplifted my art. Social media has made it alot easier to reach and be reached by clients who want your works. It has also made working interesting.

Speak a little about your personal relationship with Femininity



I grew up around men and my mum wasn't always around. So when it comes to female clothing, I tend to jump into the most comfortable outfit. I believe femininity has to do with the will power of a woman, how often do you make your own rules and not allow public view, peer pressure, societal judgements get into your life.

Go after what you need, but be firm and subtle, you don't need to be harsh, insulting or look down on people to get what you want. You don't need to depend on someone to come through for you but you need to give room for things to be done for you. I was taught and given opportunities early in life to stand up, speak up and make decisions for myself.

My parents especially my Father wanted me to understand the difference between being a feminist and feminine from an early age. And I still see the confusion on these concepts till date.


“I believe femininity has to do with the will power of a woman, how often do you make your own rules and not allow public view, peer pressure, societal judgements get into your life”

Your recent paintings embody strong themes of female bonding and reflection, can you give us an insight into the driving inspiration behind them?


Like I mentioned , my inspiration comes from events, people's experiences as well as my own experiences. These works were inspired by events.

‘A Thinking Woman’ was inspired by the desire of a male friend not to marry a feeble-minded woman, but someone who can hold her own and still humble enough to understand that he is the head of the home.

Someone who can provide solutions without his help but also be calm when he handles things. While ‘Black skin girls’ was inspired by self adoration, being comfortable in your skin, not just your skin colour but your character and personality.

Are there any recurring themes in your work, or are there any that have emerged as your work has evolved?


SometiMessage, I work in series, when I can’t seem to exhaust a particular theme for example, the women in Gele series, Girl Child series etc.



 

Black Skin Girls. Artist: Ogochukwu Ejiofor Medium: Mixed Media on canvas Size: 91.44 cm x 121.92 cm  Year: 2022
Black Skin Girls, Mixed Media on Canvas, 2022. Ogochukwu Ejiofor.



Ejiofor Ogochukwu is a visual artist from Anambra, with BA and MFA degrees in Fine and Applied Arts from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and the University of Benin, respectively.

Her work shifts from canvas paintings to wall installations. Ejiofor enjoys experimenting with waste materials, particularly those found around her.

Engaging art as a tool for social commentary, she chronicles various psychological facets of the African woman, exploring new approaches in documenting real and speculative scenarios reflecting how women take space; while expressing public opinion - as a way to communicate and influence cultural dialogue.

Her works further investigate the representations and projections of women across class and subcultures as well as depictions and ideas that she realises in mixed media and installations.

Ejiofor currently lives and works in Lagos and is a member of the Society of Nigerian Artists, the Nigerian Association of Female Artists, the SisterArt Visual Global Community and HERS (NGO focusing on Girl child on the Street). She operates Art Bullet.ng, a studio space where she holds art workshops for secondary school students and art teachers. Ejiofor’s passion for giving back to her community involves a combination of areas spanning across the arts, women empowerment and the younger generation. She is an Art Ambassador for Goge Africa and a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards 2019 Alumni.

See more works by the artist here.



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