Employing a rich spectrum of creative elements that visualise everyday life, he articulates his passionate belief in service and preservation, sparking thought-provoking conversations and conveying ideas that both enlighten and motivate.
By Joy Chukwujindu
Anyone who has ever journeyed down the streets of Lagos has encountered at least one of these iconic characters: drivers of yellow busses incessantly honking their horns in an attempt to drown out the protests of frustrated passengers running late to work, street hawkers hurriedly trying to make a sale to the passengers on the bus, a conductor haggling with a bread seller over the bus fare as he struggles to load the trunk with a towering stack of steaming hot Agege bread, and the police officer who seems unfazed by the commotion but is secretly planning to yank the keys from the bus’s ignition.
Anyone who has lived in a Nigerian town knows that one shoemaker who doubles as a security guard, the beggar in the neighbourhood who sits a block away from a mosque, the preacher at an open marketplace, and the endless chatter between traders and customers. The portrayals of this beautiful tapestry of individuals and interactions are at the core of the creative expressions of Femi.the.god.
Femi.the.god is a Lagos-born visual storyteller, writer, and entrepreneur, who considers himself an observer and creative conduit. Employing a rich spectrum of creative elements that visualise everyday life, he articulates his passionate belief in service and preservation, sparking thought-provoking conversations and conveying ideas that both enlighten and motivate.
At a recent TEDx Lagos event, themed “Momentum”, the multidisciplinary artist delivered a profound talk on the importance of sharing the narratives of ordinary people to positively influence good governance. In addition to this insightful rendition, there was a vibrant exhibition of his art and an onstage interview that delved into the theme of his talk and further critiqued his artistic process.
When speaking on his peculiar art style, materials and media he said:
“I work across a diverse spectrum of media and materials. The most important thing for me is the idea that I’m trying to communicate. How that translates in reality depends on what medium I find to be suitable or more compatible, whether it is an illustration, a painting, an installation, or a poem. I like to experiment because it helps me come up with novel media of expressions that can be more impactful for the audience. An example of this would be one of the most prominent media from my last 3 exhibitions which I called Craft on Canvas, currently a favourite of mine because it allows for a seamless translation from digital art to traditional renders that give a more enriching experience to the viewer.
My art style can be said to be a mix of conceptual and documentary art. I like to apply a lot of innovation while keeping a keen focus on telling mundane stories of everyday living and unearthing forgotten narratives. More recently I have integrated my art with poetry, creating a distinctive storytelling experience that has been warmly embraced by those who encounter my work.”
He shared his vision on how interacting with the beautifully mundane things of day-to-day life can help provide a more insightful perspective on the wants and needs of people living ordinary lives, and shared his view on how artists can seminally affect governance by raising a generation of empathetic and morally upright citizens who uphold integrity and are willing to fight for equity.
He stated that artists can also serve as watchers – celebrating dedicated leaders and depicting those who fall short in a critical light, thereby discouraging inadequate governance. He highlighted that although other forms of media have a strong part to play in this regard, visual art has a unique allure that makes it a more effective tool, as human beings tend to have a deeper connection to the impressions created by pieces of art.
As profound as the talk was, Femi.the.god’s appearance at the event exceeded mere words, as six pieces of his art titled Hierarchy were also on display. The series portrayed familiar Lagos figures, stacked atop one another, symbolising the social hierarchy of the city’s middle and lower class.
The novelty of the art style was unmistakable, characterised by the synergy of cubist shapes and brilliant colours that created a focus on features that conveyed powerful messages. The attendees were not reluctant to comment on the sense of nostalgia they got from the relatable display of art, stating that they were able to tie the art to the poem that was delivered by the artist shortly before the viewing.
Speaking with Femi.the.god on the socially conscious nature of his art, he said that it was imperative that artists constantly reflect on their environment and see themselves as agents of social change, understanding that art has throughout history, adapted to the needs of different eras. He further stated that the rise of social media as a primary channel for gaining exposure presents an environment where the things we create are influenced by the need to get positive feedback from social media algorithms, and he encouraged fellow artists to maintain their artistic purpose and focus on creating work that truly resonates with their convictions.
Irrespective of our diverse preferences in art, it is undeniable that the endeavour to create powerful art that subtly permeates the collective consciousness for the sake of positive change is a noble pursuit. As we witness the emergence of this movement, we’re left to wonder how far it will go and what positive transformations it will usher in through these impactful symbolic portrayals. Femi.the.god leaves us with some food for thought as he poignantly states in the prominent lines from his poem:
“In that place where I make art
I’m telling true stories out of every syllable
The question is ‘What kind of story would you like me to tell of you?’
Do you want to be glorified or be the tale of the terrible?
You better choose wisely.
Because – once it’s written down, it’s indelible.”
Joy Chukwujindu is an art and entertainment lawyer. When she’s not lawyering, she’s writing, designing spaces and planning events.