My name is Ifeanyi Ifemeje, an Igbo boy from across the Niger, Imo state. I am the eldest in a family of six and spent the better part of my growing years in Benin.
Arts? When? How? Why?
I don’t really remember the when, but my mum says I started drawing in Primary Four. I was melancholic as a child so I stayed busy in my head by myself, and on the outside, I found solace in pencils and paper. I found that I liked it. Later I would do drawing assignments for my classmates – Fine Arts, Agric, Health, Sciences, anything that had drawings I did. I enjoyed it, and it came very easy to me, I didn’t have to stress or anything. So I just kept doing –
(butts in) Did you know then how good you were or you just enjoyed drawing?
I just enjoyed it. And I kept pushing myself. For example, I liked cartoons so after watching on TV I would try to recreate the characters on paper. If I got the same smiling face as when I watched it on screen, then I knew I had gotten it right. I also paid attention to details, I didn’t have to struggle with that either. So I just kept getting better. Immediately after secondary school, I discovered an artist named Owolabi Pius and I spent three months in his studio learning pastel. Ironically, when I was done with that, I still couldn’t place a finger on what I had learnt from the whole err…
(snickers) Yes, internship. But in 2007, a politician was campaigning in my village. My aunt suggested that I do a portrait of him and send it to him. It sounded like a good idea so I rallied my savings and bought pastel paper, pastel colors, a board and started working. I spent about 2-3 weeks on it, painting almost non-stop. When I finished, my savings was exhausted so I had to borrow money to buy a frame. After framing, I took it to him. He liked it immediately, and after talking with me, asked his P.A. to give me five hundred thousand.
(laughs) Yes, Naira. We – my brother and I – met the P.A. who gave us an envelope. We ran home, locked the doors and windows, shut all the curtains and opened the envelope to see that it was just two hundred and fifty thousand in it. We were not so happy, but hey, two-fifty was a lot of money still. So I took it and shared it out among my people then.
(laughs) Yels! Anyway that made me think that I was sitting on a pot of gold. I mean, I like doing this, and people are willing to pay THIS much for it, so why not?! I dove into it with all I had. At about that time, I gained admission into the university to study Biotechnology. Through my time in school, I was still drawing and painting part-time.
Are you doing this full-time now? Anything on the side?
Not full-time yet. Presently, I am ajuwaya (NYSC member); I teach Biology and Animal Husbandry in a secondary school. I also work as an Assistant Graphics Designer for Whits&Stratts here in Lagos.
Plans for the future?
A colleague and I have just started our own firm, Lava DigiArts which true to its name, focuses on digital arts. The idea was unique and it won first place in Shell’s entrepreneurship grant scheme; so right now, we have office space and a grant with which we have started work, using digital means to create art that will appeal in quality and cost to the high and middle class. While working on this, of course, I will keep at my pencils and paint.
Now, let’s talk about ‘My Sketchbook’.
What was your first thought upon reading the post?
Well, reading up to a point, I thought it was personal. A lot of people experience such things, just that the writer in this case chose to tell her story with the unique idea of a sketchpad. Apart from the angle of romantic love, there are other ways in which people give a lot of love and get nothing in return. Mothers are a very good example. An example that quickly comes to mind is the mother of St. Thomas Aquinas, who despite his rebelliousness kept praying and soliciting on behalf of her son. And at the most unlikely time, against all odds, this prodigal son turned a new leaf and rose to become one of the greatest saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Love is not the easiest of ideals but there are people who keep giving it even when they only get woes in return. I really don’t know what inspires such people but while it is really sad to look at, I also think it’s beautiful.
So when I read ‘My Sketchbook’, I truly empathized with the person who wrote it – I don’t know her, by the way. But beyond empathy, I connected with her on a deeper level of art – I know how it feels to give someone your sketchpad and he just does rubbish with it. I felt her pain. Christ is the prime example of love and after his sacrifice he was ultimately glorified by God. So I thought, “if I were in the shoes of Christ, what I would do is to reward her sacrifice – give her another sketchpad, another heart”.
Then again I thought, “but I can. I can give her a new sketchpad, with a beautiful sketch on it, make it bigger and better.”
When she lost her sketchpad, she sowed a seed of love that had died under rejection and ill treatment. But a seed dies so that a flower can grow. I wanted to make that happen for her. And that was it.
A word to our WAW readers, their votes persuaded you to SHOW YOURSELF by the way.
Yes oh, here I am! (laughs)
About ‘Words Are Work’, I honestly do not follow faithfully. Only time to time, I get links from my friends on whatsapp and I check it out. I am pretty busy a lot of the time, but yeah, I enjoy it each time I visit there. It’s a very cool blog.
Yeah…WAW is cool. Okay, any last words?
Hmmm…for Hope or Hope’s character – I don’t know if it was a real life experience or fictional poetry, but I’ll say, continue to give love. Continue to love, even when it’s unrequited, continue to sacrifice –
(cuts in) Really? In this ‘dog-eat-dog’ world?
(laughs) Oh yes, and I know it’s a tough stance. But I’m a Christian and I believe life works best that way. And if I believe and live by that, I believe there is one other person, two, three other people who believe it too. And slowly but surely, we’ll make the world a better place.
…then we had a large lunch and made my tummy a better place 🙂
I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter