Cultural symbols

Kelechi Nwaneri: Using cultural symbols to tell stories | The Guardian Nigeria News

Through Njideka Agbo

January 16, 2022 | 6:30 a.m.

Each artwork that Kelechi Nwaneri exhibits has a unique characteristic – the use of uli, nsibidi, two ancient forms of communication to tell stories. His interest in reviving culture has earned him the attention of international art lovers, including a spot at Ted Lasso. Guardian Life talks to him about his…

Each artwork that Kelechi Nwaneri exhibits has a unique characteristic – the use of uli, nsibidi, two ancient forms of communication to tell stories.

His interest in reviving culture has earned him the attention of international art lovers, including a spot at Ted Lasso. Guardian Life talks to him about his career change, Ted Lasso and NFTs.

You studied agricultural extension and are now an artist. Tell us about your interest in the arts.

I became completely interested in the Arts during my 3rd year at university after deciding to be an artist. A lot of things drove this decision, but mostly because I knew I had the basic talent to draw. I was first attracted by the hyperrealism in pencil. Over time, I started to find all the art forms interesting.

One thing that particularly strikes art lovers is your use of Igbo iconography. Can you shed more light on this?

The intention has always been to find a way to always leave my identity in my work, an African, Nigerian and Igbo feel. Using symbols like Uli and Nsibidi and several cultural ideas in my work helps me achieve this.

Looking back, did you see yourself doing this full time? Would you say that your degree influenced some of your work?

It wasn’t until third grade that I never thought about being a full-time or full-time artist. I wanted to be a pilot when I was little, then a doctor when I was in high school, but I ended up reading agriculture and now I’m an artist. I think my immediate environment still influences my work more than anything else.

In what ways do you think your work has created an impact on society?

Having my work featured in a TV series like “Ted Lasso” (Season 2, Episode 11) has gotten people interested in my work on Igbo brands and culture, especially with projects like “Myths” already completed. As you may also have noticed, this Igbo iconography cannot be easily missed when viewing my works.

What is your most important job and what motivates it?

For me, “Carry you home” (2019) is my most important work. Not just because of how it was used in “Ted Lasso,” but because of what it means to me. This point in this painting was the sad ending and the beginning of better times for me.

What work inspires you the most?

I get inspiration from different artists at different times. Picasso, Van Gogh, Kerry James Marshall, Dali, Uche Okeke, Yinka Shonibare, and the list goes on and on.

With the maturity and appreciation of the arts, what is the future of Africa’s preservation of stolen and ancient Nigerian arts?

As I have rightly said, I believe the art of the continent is receiving the most attention at the moment and this has seen the rise of several institutions across the continent that aim to develop and preserve the arts. Places like Zeitz Mocaa, South Africa, Black Rock, Senegal, Yemisi Shyllon Museum in Lagos all serve this purpose and with this projected growth, I am sure more institutions and individuals who share this same purpose will emerge. I am convinced that all art objects that were stolen during the colonial era will be returned in due course.

What is the future of the creative (art) industry, NFTs?

Personally, I don’t think NFT is the future of the creative art industry. Although they’re so important now and they’re here to stay, I don’t think they’re here to replace anything or be the future of anything. To my knowledge, it’s just about using digital art that’s put into a system that allows you to derive and grow revenue from it and that’s a thing in and of itself. I like the idea of ​​being able to animate and digitize my work; it gives me new approaches to tell my stories. It’s the idea of ​​NFTs that I like the most.