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Artists are like beggars — Andrew Ikechukwu Emueze

By Yemisi Suleiman
In this modern age, it takes more than being able to paint with the brush or  sculpture before one becomes a  creative or  renowned  artist. For Andrew Ikechukwu Emueze being an artist is a dream come true. “I have always wanted to be an artist.

It wasn’t something I just stumbled upon or deviated into” he said. Growing up in the slum of Ajegunle, Andrew went to St. Andrews primary school,  Gasski College in Ijora and Auchi Polytechnic for his higher education where he studied arts and latter served at alliance Francois,  Illorin, Kwara state where he also  had series of art shows and exhibitions.

In this chat with Vanguard Art and Book Review, Emezue gives insight into his coming into the world of art, the  challenges he has had to face as an artist practicing in Nigeria.  He spoke to Yemisi Suleiman.

One of Emueze’s works
One of Emueze’s works

Like every other artist in Nigeria, Andrew  tries as much as possible to pass a message across to his audience, but he does that  with a touch of inventiveness. According to him  “the major thing I intend achieving with my exhibition is to enlighten people on their spiritual and moral responsibilities to themselves and to  the world at large”. “This I intend doing, using my art work as a medium.

Going through the catalogue of my art painting, you would see that  there are messages that would prick your conscience as you reflect on the works. My art work is not like the normal landscape Oshodi kind of paintings, though I don’t fancy such works, but I respect their painters. But I love to search deep inside of me and bring out unique art piece. For instance, one of my works is titled dualism, because we live in a world where everything, everyone and every force is trying to change us from whom we are. And been able to remain who we are is our greatest achievement” he explained.

Describing  the Nigerian artist, Andrew noted that “The Nigerian artist has been affected by the Nigerian factor, where people are appreciated not because of who they are, or because they are human beings, but because of the kind of cars they drive and the large sums of money they throw around. Every aspect of our lives has been monetized. You go to school to study art and after graduation, you are faced with an environment that won’t allow you thrive”.

“When  I graduated from Auchi poly, we were 12 that graduated at the same time from same department, but some how, our best student is not practicing art he is currently into oil and gas, another is in the aviation, while one is into graphic designs.

They are not into art because they have to make ends meet. So that is the challenge the Nigerian artist faces. Before an average Nigerian spends 50, 000 for an art piece; he would first have paid his rent, children’s school fees, and provided basic necessities for his family. Now, how many Nigerians can afford all these and still have enough for a piece of art work?” He questioned.

Lamenting that the major challenge he faces as  Nigerian artist is no just peculiar to him.  Because,” it is a common challenge and it is the challenge of finance and sponsors. When I was organizing my first show in Kwara State, getting sponsor was like  one big hell. I went to the then Commissioner of Arts and Culture of the State and nothing was forth coming. In fact, Alliance Française was a last resort, and they gave me all the assistance they could.

People make a lot of noise about every other thing except  art. In Nigerian art has been neglected. Sincerely speaking, art flourishes where there is food on the table and when it pays your bills. One thing that is wrong with Nigerian art is that we tend to segregate, this is African art, and this is black art. But like music, art should be a universal language, not to be restricted by race, colour, tribe or religion. A good art work should appeal to anyone any where.”

Narrating how he has been able to address his own financial challenge, Emezue told Art and Book Review that “To solve my own financial challenge, I had to make sure that I had some other sources of income different from my art work. So, I went into printing and consultancy.

I am not solely dependent on my art work as the main source of income. And that is the reason I can dictate how I want to paint, with out people dictating for me. If my art work brings me fortune, beautiful! if not, fine. But because I am not depending on it, I can bring out what is inside of me. And not what anybody or the market dictate to me. Usually that is what happens in Nigerian art and even in the  music industry. The market dictates to the artist, and that is why they don’t last because they allow the market to dictate for them.

Lamenting about the poverty state of Nigeria artists, the confident and vocal art ambassador noted that “ if you take about fifty artists in Nigeria, just two have their art work putting food on their table. It is not just in Nigeria, but also outside Nigeria.

Although outside the country, they really appreciate art works but, how many people purchase them? They just buy printed copies that are cheap instead of the master piece. Go to the National theater, we have more than  100 artists but it is only  just about two who are making mega money from their art. Art is not lucrative as it should be.” However he reasoned that the joy driving from artistic accomplishment surpasses whatever money value it commands adding that “ I can stay all day without eating when I am painting.

It is the joy that keeps artist going. I don’t see my work as something I should be begging to be appreciated. Just like the guy that plays violin, he does so not because he is appreciated but because he is good at what he does. I paint the way I paint, and whether am appreciated or not does not affect me.”

Giving insight into what defines his creative mood, the AJ city based artist says that it is simply nature!”Nature and life, I mix with people and one of the things that inspires my kind of painting is the kind of life we live, both individually and collectively. Most times, I ask myself some questions like why are there rich people and poor people? kings and serfs?

when every one of us was born and given a chance to be born, and how come there is one rich person and one poor person?  Some how I realized that we all have our individual roles in life. Like a stage play; everyone is important and nobody is better than the other. To me the shoe maker on the street is as important as the bus driver plying the road because they all have their roles in life. And I don’t look down on any one because of their social status; adding that his on coming exhibition would serve as another platform to showcase his new aesthetic forms, styles and philosophical bent.

According to him, “when I paint I don’t see painting as painting for aesthetic purposes only, but I use my painting as a medium to tackle the moral aspect of life. Presently, my paintings have to do with the spiritual aspect of life. And the title of my exhibition is “life is a journey”. As we travel in planet earth, we are not certain how this journey is going to end.

The exhibition, which proposes to hold in July, at the Aina Onobolu Art Complex, National Theatre, Orile Iganmu, he revealed, will also witness poetry recitations from members of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA),

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