Victor Ehikhamenor is a Nigerian award winning visual artist, writer and photographer who is also a Biennale artist at Biennale Jogja, in Indonesia. His short story “Madam” and drawings Postcards from Italy were part of the German pavilion in the 56th Venice Biennale All The World’s Future. He draws influences from traditional African motifs and religious cosmology.
He has held numerous solo art exhibitions in the US and Nigeria. In November, he was one of six Nigerian artists at the Jogja Biennale in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (“Hacking Conflict: Indonesia Meets Nigeria”) where he displayed two installations, The Wealth of Nations and Sweet Crude Black Gold (with Indonesian artist Maryanto).
Some of his work includes: The Messenger from Yesterday,” and “The Forgotten Memories We Carry.”
Ehikhamenor has studios in Lagos, Nigeria and Maryland, United States.
You were born an artist and you have worked as a professional artist for more than 20 years with several solo exhibitions and installations. What inspires your work?t?
There are three main influences to my work: tradition, politics and history. I use the past, such as history from my county Nigeria to interpret the present. I also use various symbols from my village in Edo State to showcase how live, our story and our history. Sometimes I use it to make political statements and to also celebrate our culture, from my village, Nigeria as a whole and Africa.
My grandmothers told me a lot of stories and I tell these stories through my work, through visuals. This is how I preserve my culture and my heritage through my visual story telling.
What kind of artist are you and what media do you use?
I am a multimedia artist, I use enamel, charcoal, video art, creating sculptures and I also do various installations such as my recent installation in Gallery Momo in Johannesburg, South Africa in April titled Mapping The Landscape Within.
I play with different materials to tell my story through my work.
In 2014, you collaborated with Nigerian designer Ituen Basi, combining art and fashion. What inspired this collaboration?
Yes this was for the Spring- Summer collection for 2014, the collection was called the Ekemini collection previewed in Vogue Fashion Experience in Dubai.
If you look at art in Europe or the US, art and fashion often combine. This was a way to increase access to my work, for the art lovers and the fashion lovers, those who embraced Ituen Basi’s creations. It showcased our Nigerian culture.
I plan to have more collaborations with other African brands in the near future.
Where can art lovers and collectors view and purchase your artwork?
This is possible in Gallery of African Art, in London, Nirox Gallery in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, Indonesia, Nigeria and in Poland.
What is driving the rise in art collections in Africa?
Awareness is what is pushing this rise in art collection. It is awareness by people in the diaspora who see our work and share it through Instagram, Facebook and writing about it. This influences the people in the continent to start purchasing our works. The diaspora may not have financial ability to purchase some works but they influence its purchase when they go to galleries and view the work then share it around. This increases the transactions.
More artists are coming up in the continent, in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Senegal and other African countries. To groom and grow this industry, are there aspects that need to be addressed?
We need more curators, historians, and galleries to show art works. Senegal has done a very good job, and I commend the country for continuously sponsoring the Biennale for artists to gain exposure.
Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa have done an excellent job of having residencies for artists and it is crucial for other African countries to have such residencies to enhance this talent.
Senegal, Kenya and South Africa are creating better environments for their artists through creation of more galleries.
Another crucial aspect is financing for artists and this can be done through the private sector or philanthropists who have passion for art.
This is what we need to pave the way for the rise of African art.