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Creating The Wellness In the Spirit Of, WE! #BreakTheStigma

An Interview With #WeAreNigerianCreatives, OLALOYE BUNMI, and the Responsibility For Nigeria's Creative Sector To Nourish Mental Wellness Among Nigeria, and Nigerian People! #BreakTheStigma

One of the phenomenons of creativity is that it is found everywhere. Wherever there is human existence lays creativity. Wherever there is life’s fruition, is enduring possibility for deriving something out of nothing. The fascinating scent of life’s essence is that creative minds are everywhere. It doesn’t matter which Universal plane they occupy on Earth’s spacing. They are there. Some have yet to be discovered. On the contrary, there are others, managing to achieve international fame and prestige. Nevertheless, there is a particular vibe, a magnetic lens of higher gaze, that is attracting the creative types. Attuned to a particular level of venturing into the invisible realm, collecting energy particles, and designing them into manifestation. That’s the power of creative minds.

In the nation of Nigeria, its the artistic Beings showcasing Nigeria’s Earthly reflection in Universal domain. A nation facing challenges. Both political and economic. When hopelessness arrives, the creatives show up. The harder things become, the more they work. The greater they create. The phrase, going against the grain, does not equate to the amount of energy exerted, in channeling happiness and hope throughout the land. When the people of a nation do not know where to turn, when anxiety threatens the very soundness of their mind, its the creatives swooping in to bring stillness. Re-centering the people, and reminding them that it will only be in re-creating desired visions, that things will change. A mental freshness is needed. Evolving out of the current structures, re-aligning to the natural planes of one’s country, and figuring out the real shape of movement. Nigeria’s natural design, and how such is applicable to the well-being and enhancement of Nigerian societies, is key!

In the world of #WeAreNigerianCreatives, it is the arts, and whatever creative ideas, playing a powerful role in Nigerian representation. Economically, artistically, and creatively. Period. In this world of Nigerian minds, creativity is king and queen. If imagination is not part of your forte, this arena is not for you. If you cannot explore within the Universal worlds, while bringing them into the visual landscapes of Nigerian soiling, this paradise is not for you. In the creative worlds, there is legendary work to be done. It is tedious, aggravating, and sometimes frustrating. Yet, at the very end, a nation will listen. The world will listen!

In a recent interview with #WeAreNigerianCreatives founder, OLALOYE BUNMI, we enter the world of the creative minds, of a Nigerian persuasion.

(Photograph By John Magnitude; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Lauren K. Clark: Tell us about that initial moment when you decided to form, #WeAreNigerianCreatives? What was the source of inspiration, and how did you get the idea?

Olaloye Bunmi: Being an artist and an art lover, it has always been my desire to see African creatives get better support to enable them to continue the creative process. The #WeAreNigerianCreatives movement was inspired by the lack of support for people, who venture into the creative field. Most African parents see artists as poor people or roadside artists, if the children wants to venture into any creative or artistic career. Everything is done in their power to prevent it from happening. The generally accepted career paths are medicine and engineering.

When people talk about Nigerian art, it tends to be labeled under a particular form of art like sculptures and abstract art. But its way larger than that, from the newer hyperrealism to the conceptual art movement in Nigeria. The past and current generations played major roles in making this happen.

In September 2017, Annabelle Hayford, a Ghanaian-American artist created a hashtag named #DrawingWhileBlack to show Black artists, who are grossly underemployed in the animation and movie industry. The tag trended on Twitter. I started messaging my art friends like Larry Tamara, Nnadi Ikechuckwu, Mohammad Agbadi, and my brother to join in. Some hours later, I noticed a friend’s work was getting noticed. This was the movement for me. For 8 months I went on a restless journey of finding Nigerian artists on social media, and connecting with them. Started the movement as a tag in 2018. My friend Larry Tamara came up with the name for the tag as #WeAreNigerianCreatives, instead of #WeAreNigerianArtists; since this doesn’t limit it to a form of creativity.

Lauren K. Clark: Art is a way of healing. It soothes the Soul and garners the Spirit. Through your observations, how do you see Nigerian artistry and creativity bringing comfort to Nigerian people? How is it a form of therapy and healing? Would you please give specific examples?

Olaloye Bunmi: Despite all the political problems my country faces, so many artists and creators have found ways of turning the pain into art, and craft, of immense quality.

(Photograph By John Magnitude; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Lauren K. Clark: Nigeria has gone through a her/history of societal and political difficulties. Close your eyes. Go back to that time and space. Tell us where was ART during these time?

Olaloye Bunmi: Art was design. Art was expression and art was documentation of history, in its rawest form. Passed down from generation to generation, ways of making art. Unique and expressive art was made from the core of feelings.

Lauren K. Clark: Let’s talk about your particular, cultural background in Nigeria. Tell us about your Mother’s people. What are their definitions of art? How is that connected to their language and the natural spacing around them?

Olaloye Bunmi: I am the last of 4 children. I’m from Offa in Kwara State, Nigeria. My mom has a vibrant cultural background with Ghanaian ancestry, growing up in Ghana. . .which is the Gold Coast of Africa. She always told me tales growing up of the rich, Ghanaian artistry.

Lauren K. Clark: With the current COVID-19 global epidemic, what is the responsibility of Nigerian visual artists, singers, musicians, writers, poets, and other creatives to Nigerian people? What is their responsibility in bringing therapy and wellness to the masses?

Olaloye Bunmi: Every Nigerian has the responsibility of giving back to those who don’t have, through different initiatives. So many Nigerians were not offered supplies to survive the current lock down in my country. Nigerians must do their best playing an active role in helping those without the best necessities to make it through this hard period. Nigerian artists should endeavor to spread hope and positivity through art. Musicians in my country are doing their best to help people through give aways.

(Photograph By John Magnitude; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Lauren K. Clark: What have been some of your own mental wellness challenges (and those closest to you)? How have you used your personal art to navigate through these challenges?

Olaloye Bunmi: My wellness challenges range from low to high; by using my personal art as therapy for not only depression, but to explore my learning disabilities and better understand myself. Art becomes a means of documentation and recording experiences to me. In a realistic, authentic, and genuine way.

Lauren K. Clark: If you could describe Nigerian creatives in 3 colors, what would they be? What is the spiritual and mental nourishment behind each of these colors?

Olaloye Bunmi: The first color would be green-the link this color has with our flag is strong. Green is a color that signifies life. Nigerian creatives create both life, and capture it, through different creative expressions. The second color is Blue. It expresses freedom of expression without limitations. The third would be yellow. I feel so many creatives identify with this color.

Lauren K. Clark: You wake up early in the morning. The sun is shining. Its a beautiful day. Your have your morning rituals. Breakfast has been eaten. How does the day continue from there?

Olaloye Bunmi: First, I go out to feel the air, in all its splendor and natural exorbitance. Then, I start making art.

(Photograph By John Magnitude; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Lauren K. Clark: When it comes to feeling good, and having hope for the future of Nigeria, how has #WeAreNigerianCreatives created this aura and source of inspiration?

Olaloye Bunmi: The movement has created optimism for the future of Nigeria, also creating a better environment for artists and creatives to thrive. It is a source of inspiration for so many people out there.

Lauren K. Clark: Looking back, what were some of the struggles and challenges you experienced when developing #WeAreNigerianCreatives?

Olaloye Bunmi: When I developed the idea, initially, so many people thought I was over ambitious; thinking of doing something never been done before, by anybody. Others made me feel it was impossible, without government support or help. Some even advised me to reduce my expectations, and that they are impossible in Nigeria. The only way this can happen is leaving the country.

Lauren K. Clark: Art has not always been viewed as a lucrative practice. How does #WeAreNigerianCreatives defy this notion, while also staying true to the Universal purpose of art?

Olaloye Bunmi: Yes, art has not always been viewed as a lucrative practice in my country. When my brother wanted to study Fine and Applied Art from the University, so many people tried to persuade him not to do so; that art was not something to do full time-especially in Nigerian society. He proved them all wrong by becoming a full time digital artist and illustrator; working for some of the biggest brands in the process.

The movement has played a great role in changing this, as so many artists involved in it have gone on to get huge international attention; exhibitions all over the world, and features on the biggest media networks. As a result of this, Nigerians are moving beyond the roadside artist ideology and becoming more open to understanding art.

(Photograph By John Magnitus; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Lauren K. Clark: Is mental health and wellness considered a taboo topic in Nigeria? Has there been much more growth, and more open conversations on depression, and other mental health disorders?

Olaloye Bunmi: Mental health is not an open topic because most Africans believe more in spirituality than reason. Most Nigerians believe depression is just words. They feel mental disorder is either a curse or witchcraft problem. That’s why they take victims for prayers, instead of seeking professional help.

Lauren K. Clark: What do you see to be the link between economics and mental health in Nigeria?

Olaloye Bunmi: The link-the economy of Nigeria, no funding for healthcare, a lot of frustration in my country due to unemployment, bad business, poor social infrastructure.

Lauren K. Clark: What are your future plans in hoping to take #WeAreNigerianCreatives to the next level, as it relates to being more accepted in Nigeria and on the international realm?

Olaloye Bunmi: I am currently working on a new project which involves me discovering the creative talents of people, who don’t use social media, and amplifying them. There are so many undiscovered talents in Nigeria, in all fields. Also I’m planning out future exhibitions and events.

(Photograph By John Magnitus; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

As the nation of Nigeria continues to go through its share of difficult roads, there is one thing that is certain. They are still connected to the Universal. With that comes treasures for myriad solutions. Endless solutions in Nigeria’s enhancement and elevation. Beauties and designs laying there in Nigerian landscapes, waiting to be discovered. Crafting moments to heal and re-store Nigeria. Cleansing every pain and scar, stamped upon the mental psyche of Nigerian people. This is the legacy and work of the creatives. #WeAreNigerianCreatives is a gift to Nigeria. Like the natural resources of the land, they are treasures. These bright minds, are the gatekeepers for mental nourishment; taking that nourishment and planting it into the soils. Experimenting and exploring the boundaries at hand, and seeing just what can be re-adjusted in order to explore hidden possibilities.

Old and rigid things cannot work in new spacing. Throughout the given generations, traditions can be maintained, but the process must always be updated. Experimented with and re-fashioned. #WeAreNigerianCreatives is designing that responsibility. They are more than a bunch of visual artists, who have come together to paint, draw, and what have you. It is greater than a simple hobby of “bored individuals,” who have nothing else better to do. They are reviving the Spirit of Nigeria. Keeping life’s energies re-channeled and re-cycled throughout the land. That no matter what happens-politically or economically-it is their work that will keep freshness, afloat. Painting images of Nigeria’s future, and keeping those eyes alive, as a focal point, in where Nigeria should be directed. Creating the future, drawing the present, and archiving a past time of artistry!

(Photograph By John Magnitus; Edits Lauren K. Clark)
(Photograph By John Magnitus; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)
(Photograph By John Magnitus; Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

For more information and to support #WeAreNigerianCreatives, you can go to their Twitter link: @WANCreatives OR email at: [email protected]

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