The materiality of Fine Art is often called into question in this present day and age.
‘Why should we take this banana on the wall seriously’, ‘this painter only does abstraction because they can’t REALLY paint’ or even, ‘why would you create something that has no function?’.
But to be honest, art has long ago ceased to just be about craftsmanship and is now about the ability to move or even transcend one’s audience.
As I lay there, half awake, I rummaged around my bed a little and found my new favourite red pen and Byzantine decorated notebook and went to work.
This was another one of those dreams that I was going to interpret and turn into an artwork.
My dreams are masterpieces of personal agony, academic research, popular news and culture, psychology, colour theory, mythos, and allegory.
The day that I can truly recreate my dreams to my expectation, is the day that I would have officially become a ‘Master’ of sorts. So it may never happen, because mastery to me seems extremely boring. Experimentation is far more interesting. That said, I’m a bit obsessive so…
I get to work on understanding my dream and how others could relate in the installation that I am planning.
1) The Personal: Blue + Red = Purple
In my dream my mother was besides herself about how ‘different’ I was to the rest of the family. I’m on the spectrum (and loud about it), I’m bisexual, I’m not conventional, I practice the traditional Yoruba religion of Ifá and not Christianity (she and all her siblings + parents are literally pastors) I’m somewhat passably attractive and yet not dating or even very social and my British accent gets stronger and ‘posher’ every time I see her, I am also extremely sex and body positive. Also, I am WAY too nice in comparison to her other kids, almost constantly being in servitude of others – this was also VERY weird to her.
So in my dream, when the whole family wore traditional blue attire and I wore purple, my Mum needed an answer and a friend and ‘elder’ came to her and said that I am borne from a similar cloth as her and the rest of the family, but that the red inside of me could not be denied or ignored. That it was part of who I am, and it was something that strengthens me.
2) The Mythological: Yemọja + Ṣàngó = Something Unheard Of
In Yorùbá mythology Yemọja is the mother of all Òrìṣà (Yorùbá Gods & Goddesses), as she suddenly birthed them all from a large body of water after undergoing distress. Ṣàngó is an offspring of Yemọja, but is the embodiment of lighting + thunder and Yemọja is the embodiment of water – a fairly chaotic mix when they come together. And this was apparently the reflection of my own internal self.
3) The Research: Environmental Instability
An aspect of my dream that reflected not only mythology but existential dread about the environment, was the submergence of the man-made Lagos Island into a tumultuous and ravishing flood. And I was being asked to enter it.
Now a significant part of Yorùbá mythos is Òrìṣà becoming overwhelmed with emotion and turning into a body of water as a result – this is what was happening in my dream.
In my dream the violence experienced by the land and the violence experienced by the bodies of women and girls in Nigeria was creating a reaction within nature. And the waters had decided to begin to swallow up humanity.
It is true, that in reality the floods in Nigeria have become so problematic that they are killing whole families, with one rush of water.
Similarly, one of the main health issues that W.African women of this particular region experience is water retention, creating high-blood pressure in otherwise healthy people, particularly women.
I guess my mind saw a connection with this.
The body retaining water - the land becoming overwhelmed with water
All because of trauma.
But I wonder about inspecting the waters, finding out what causes this instability. But I am just an artist, not a scientist. I can only critique and bring attention to – and so I try to.
4) Personal Agony: It’s just being different generally
So I’ve always been different. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a way that makes a lot of people around me frustrated. Or uncomfortable.
I’ve been popular (by accident) and I’ve always shied away from it, but this often means loneliness in order to have piece of mind.
From having fairly painful invisible disabilities to dressing completely out of place in most environments, to simply refusing to conform in order to be my most honest self.
I’ll admit that the level of vulnerability I feel calls for a constant protection, but also a level of confidence and self-esteem that I do not like to compromise on.
Which is where the solitary aspect of my individuality comes into play.
Someone else wanted my space for this exhibition, and if it was by popularity rather than a first-come-first-serve basis, it wouldn’t have happened.
And this was in my dream.
Solitary Gold, who was not popular, but who made everything look great because I refuse to fall into the pitfalls of self-pity and insecurity.
Is it shallow to always try and create beauty? Well to be very honest I don’t care, because the beauty of fashion and garment construction has always been a form of expression, and also the aspect of me that is the most heavily critiqued.
And so with all of this I create “Diasporan Wilderness”.
An intense over analysis of self, how the world interacts with myself and of the world I reside in general.
As I wade through the intense emotion needed to survive life, I wonder what would have happened if I kept dreaming and journeyed into the flood.
Does my ‘difference’ mean I’ll survive, or does it just mean I’ll experience it differently?
Through this exhibition I wanted to immerse the audience into strong feeling, via the sound of a story, through murals painted on Yorùbá adire fabric (the traditional fabric of the Yorùbá people of West Africa) , by installing instruments of worship collected at Osun’s sacred grove in Nigeria and through my use of cowrie shells scattered on the ground and adorning the bodice of the one singular garment. A garment that represents the individual borne of 2 very different worlds.
And individual that wishes to survive and tell their tale of life.
I’m not too sure how the audience felt, walking through the antiquated quad of St. John’s and entering my own personal wilderness.
There is no one way to feel.
I just hope that they felt.
This piece was first published in St Edmund Hall's Magazine 2021-2022
Discussing disabled characters in fairy tales and folklore!