Nigerian photographer Asiko, whose work is on display in our online exhibition "Origines" - from April 28th to May 25th - deeply roots his art in his country’s traditions. In this exclusive interview, he tells us more about his inspirations and goals.
Asiko, Oloba, 2018, 89x58 cm
Photography - From the series "The Woman Code"
What kind of camera do you use?
I use a Canon 5D mark 4. I have three lenses: 50 mm, a Canon 1.8 85 mm, and also a 24-70 F2.8 mm.
For me, the camera is mainly a tool. As you would use a paintbrush, it’s the same way how a camera is. It’s good to understand how to use a camera, but it’s not the most important. The important is the artwork, the idea, the concept behind what’s being made.
Who are the people you take pictures of?
A lot of my work focuses on people of color. So, I’m exploring a lot my African heritage. Because of that, I’m photographing people from the African continent. Also, a lot of my photographs focus on women because I’m very interested in the place of women in the African diaspora, in the African culture.
One of my projects was focused on celebrating these Yoruba women of Nigeria who created symbols in the 15th century Yoruba. These symbols were used to communicate with other women in the society. It was a kind of secret, a secret code that these women used. These symbols are Adire symbols. I photographed 5 current Yoruba women. Using the inspiration of Yoruba women of those times, I brought the Yoruba symbols back on the bodies of these women. I did some digital painting. I painted those symbols on the women.
What is the message you want to convey through your work?
I see myself as a cultural preserver, a cultural sort of curator. I was raised in Nigeria. So, I interpret aspects of my culture based on my journey as a human being and through my experiences. I use that to look at my culture and to preserve it. I feel that the African culture sometimes is about to disappear. For, me, it’s very important to continue to create some work about the culture, to show my children and grandchildren what being African was like in my time. It’s to show my culture and my heritage and the beauty of it. It’s a celebration of my culture and my heritage. I want to convey my life and my perspective as a person and an artist.
For you, what does the notion of « origins » evoke?
For me, “origins”, is the beginning of things. For me, all the origins mean how I started the kind of work I create, how culture and identity played a big part in the origin of who I am.
If people look back on some of the artists of this time, especially the African artists, they find that there is a lot of culture and heritage that runs through their work. All their work is very different because Africa is a very complex and diverse continent. Because of that, the works, even though the similarities through it, visually look very different. I think for all of us, the culture and the identity is the real origin. It’s what we explore through our work. We use to speak either politically, socially or we are creating beautiful artworks, which is more about aesthetics. It’s where we are from. Africa is the origin.
What are your sources of inspiration?
A big thing of my source of inspiration is my culture, my African heritage, it’s where I’m from. I’m also inspired a lot by the matriarch women. One of the things I do is to explore the space of women in African societies.
So, I’m inspired by my culture, heritage, my journey as a person, and also by all women: my mother and some of the women I grew up with and who raised me, my wife, my sisters, and all black women around me.
What are your upcoming projects?
A project I’m currently working on is the Egungun Masquerade project. I traveled to Benin a couple of times. I’ve done some work, I’ve done some photographs there, spending some time with the masquerades at the vodoun festival also spending time with the cultural curators over in Benin. It’s a piece of work that explores my identity moving from Nigeria back to the UK and through that journey how the masquerade plays a part in it.
I’m working with a few people to curate it. It should be ready very soon.
About the exhibition: "Origines", from April 28th to May 25th on afikaris.com