Meet the Nigerian artist illustrating the human experience with a ballpoint pen

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Written by Nadia Leigh-Hewitson

From a distance, Jacqueline Suowari’s larger-than-life portraits seem like monochromatic pictures overlaid with colourful graphics. Upon nearer inspection, you see these dramatic pictures are the end result of 1000’s of tiny strains made utilizing a easy ballpoint pen.

Suowari, 31, has been an artist since she was a toddler, practising professionally for over a decade. She studied High quality Artwork on the College of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria, and has participated in group exhibitions globally and had solo exhibitions in Miami and Nigeria.

Her work has been featured in a number of publications together with Chukwuemeka Ben Bosah’s e-book, “The Artwork of Nigerian Ladies,” which celebrates feminine artists from the Nigerian diaspora.

This June she launched a touring exhibition of her new physique of labor entitled “Now I Put on Myself.” In her new exhibition, Suowari considers the fetishization and condemnation of aesthetics related to indigenous Nigerian cultures, and tries to destigmatize topics which are usually taboo within the nation, like despair, grief and disgrace.

Philosophy with a ballpoint pen

As a toddler Suowari did not know whether or not to be an artist, a poet or a dancer — so she determined to be all three. “Someway, I have been capable of merge all this stuff collectively to type the Jacqueline Suowari expertise,” she laughed.

“I describe myself as a visible artist who specializes primarily with the ballpoint pen,” stated Suowari. Her observe is a mix of intricate drawings paired with daring Afro-urban painted components in poppy, main colours. These works — usually as much as eight ft tall — are accompanied by poetry and efficiency artwork.

“With my drawings, I’ve this philosophy of layering — it is only a approach that I sample my strokes upon one another,” defined Suowari. “I like to have a look at every stroke because the human expertise. One expertise, one stroke — and the gathering, and layering, and falling collectively of all of the strokes creates the individual and their character.”

Suowari works in fine detail on a macro scale.

Suowari works in tremendous element on a macro scale. Credit score: Courtesy of Jacqueline Suowari

Her mark-making course of is painstaking, with most of her works requiring months of meticulous drawing.

The facility of the pen

Suowari’s work is as motivational as it’s aesthetically pleasing. Her big creations share a message of hope and empowerment; their intention is to permit Nigerians to embrace vulnerabilities — encouraging them to debate points, together with psychological well being, that she says aren’t in frequent discourse in Nigerian society.

“The Nigerian system form of bullies you into form,” Suowari stated, including that she’s making an attempt to encourage individuals to be their genuine selves, whether or not that takes the type of acknowledging their very own private strife or becoming a member of big political motion, such because the EndSARS motion.

One of many items included in her newest physique of labor is a picture of a girl sporting a standard Ankara wax print costume and loosely styled dreadlocks. “One of many issues that was the agitation for the EndSARS motion was the stereotyping of individuals based mostly on their appears to be like,” stated Suowari. “In Nigeria, if a policeman ought to discover a lady dressed like that within the evening, they’d say she’s a prostitute.”

Suowari opened her new solo exhibition, "Now I Wear Myself", at RetroAfrica in Abuja in June.

Suowari opened her new solo exhibition, “Now I Put on Myself”, at RetroAfrica in Abuja in June. Credit score: Courtesy of Jacqueline Suowari

Suowari stated that her huge portraits symbolize the faceless, unvoiced lots; she needs to inform the tales of the minority and ostracized people to provide them power.

“I imagine that everyone was created with a selected blueprint. It is like a puzzle — you are speculated to be a sure form of method to match into the puzzle for higher issues to occur,” she defined. “We won’t make up this stunning image if everyone’s the identical.”

Artwork for the better good

Suowari’s newest assortment, “Now I Put on Myself,” opened in Abuja on June 25. The exhibition will go on tour in October with the following displaying in Lagos and additional dates to be confirmed.

After a visitor look on Rodney Omeokachie’s “The Younger God” podcast following the launch, Suowari stated she was overwhelmed with messages of thanks for brazenly discussing topics that she feels are unnecessarily taboo in Nigeria.

“I feel the artist is a few type of prophet,” she stated. “Some type of priestess, or pastor, or physician that ought to be capable of use their artwork as a instrument to tell optimistic change in individuals’s minds.”

Suowari often receives emails from followers saying how her work has touched their lives. “I feel for me that’s the biggest achievement: having the ability to use your artwork as a instrument to vary individuals for the better good,” she stated. “To encourage individuals to be higher.”

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