Ikuemonisan Bolu Ezra is an amazing artist, writer and actor. He won the 2017 edition of TANA Art Competition and the 2018 edition of the Ibadan Got Talent (ART). His endearing passion to address issues necessitated the chat I had with the weird and super talented Lord, Kubols. Excerpts Below.
When did you realize you wanted to be a sketch artist?
Does art have a specific purpose? What are your thoughts?
Yes it does. It seeks to address varying issues in my immediate environment: going from mental health, to cultural values and traditions, to everyday events
Should art be used to influence political, religious, social, environmental views?
How does your art contribute to the society?
The first thing is of what use is my art? What is it doing? What I do basically is that I tell stories and those stories are really not personal stories. What they are supposed to do is be didactic a bit. Basically, there is the entertainment part of it. Because in the entertainment there’s something you have to take home with you. Most of the time what my work does is, it tries to deal with issues in the environment and make people see the truth of what it is.
For example, there is one work, that deals with showing people that you’re not the only one who has challenges because many times when we see things, it’s like we’re the only ones going through them. But actually, everyone has what they are dealing with. It’s just that the individuality is what makes the situation peculiar to us. It doesn’t mean we’re alone. So, by the time people start seeing that everyone has challenges, they will start coming out to say ‘okay I may not be able to pull myself totally, but there’s a way I can help you.
I can give my own quota and then whatever goes around comes around. So that’s my voice. In that sense, my art contributes to the society by making people see more of what’s happening around them and how it can be dealt with. There was a time I dealt with mental health and all. So, it (my art) just makes people become more aware of the things happening in their environment and it helps them make better decisions.
How do you manage to stay both personal and original in your creative endeavours?
I don’t think being personal should stop you from being original because being original is supposed to be your person. I am all – round creative and I cannot be a creative and have restrictions in areas of my life that has creativity.
Being a creative means that every part of you: how you think, how you talk and do things, basically is creative. It does not necessarily mean it should be taken overboard.
It just means that my creative endeavours are actually borne out of my person. There is no separation. Creativity is basically doing something differently. It’s not that you are doing something new actually. As a creative, you’d become a reservoir of what you learn from people, what you see people do, then you are doing it in a different way as it were. Like a jigsaw puzzle, you are putting all you’ve learned together to form a beautiful piece.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process?
In my early days, Yes. It affected me because the people I expected to give me the boost didn’t understand what I was doing. I wasn’t getting value for what I was doing neither was I being paid. I took that as rejection but after some while, I realised that you really don’t need those things to affect you. At some point in your life, you’d be rejected. Either the person doesn’t understand what you are doing or doesn’t buy into your idea. As long as you understand what exactly you are doing, and you know for who it is, time will tell. Such is life.
What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
I have done quite some funny jobs. One of the ones I enjoyed very well was teaching. I loved to teach and I still love to. And of course, if I have the opportunity to teach (not full time), I will do it with all of my heart. I’ve had to volunteer to raise funds. I contemplated on acting as Father Christmas at some point. I did something photographers will call ‘though of photography’. It is a phase and every phase has an expiry date.
Can you describe one or two important projects that you have completed?
All my projects are important because I am attached to my works. However, the first I’d talk about is Help Me. Originally, I took the work off someone’s photography work and then I had to adapt it because I needed originality in my work. This was at a time when a lot of folks were contemplating and committing suicide. The work emphasized how suicide doesn’t take the sadness away from you but rather multiplies it for people around you. The Other one is Dark Side. This is for people who always want to project their best side and seem perfect. No one is perfect. Everyone has those fears, challenges, insecurities. Those weaknesses are part of the things that actually makes us mortals.
Tell us about the trajectory of your career up to this point.
As a student, I wasn’t considering myself as an artist even though I was doing works. I remember that I once did a portrait of Tye Tribbet, I posted it online and then he commented. I felt WoW and I was looking for a way to get it to him even though that didn’t work out. I made the a portrait of Gen. Yakub Gowon, Funke Adenowo, Rev. Felix Adejumo and a former CMD of University College Hospital (UCH), Professor Temitope Alonge. I take commissions too. There was a contest that placed me as the 15th top young Nigerian Artist early 2017. Ake Festival Publication. I have had about five (5) exhibition platforms. Those are some of the things I did. A number of rejections though but I am going for more wins. My career is still young and there is still so much more to do. I’ve had to drop a paid job in a bid to focus on my creative work. Its been somewhat challenging but awesome still.
What is the most important/relevant/influence for your art?
I’d say people. I love dark (black) colours so you’d notice that most of my art works are dark. There is an influence of heavy charcoal on all my works. With the way I tell my stories, I always love them open ended so that you can create an interpretation and go home with resolution yourself. It is metaphor as it were. I am not dogmatic with my work. I am expressionist
What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your creative journey?
Exposure. Art is about constant learning. Getting exposed to the right things, people and places. Cash can also cause challenges, especially when one has a beautiful project in mind but the cost of production is not looking so beautiful. The community doesn’t hold so much opportunity as it were, maybe because many are not art oriented. ‘Sebi na person wey don chop bele full dey buy art’, they’ll say.