We like to describe Mayowa as the amazing Artist with a beautiful HeART. His ability to effortlessly create works that shine a light in dark places is one of the many things we admire about him. From the way his works are thought provoking to the passion reflective behind each creative process. Mayowa redefines what it means to share authentic stories through Art while stirring meaningful conversations on some of the least talked about societal issues. He remains one ICONIC creative whose works will stay evergreen on the sand of time.
Join us on this special annual ISSUE- As Mayowa shares a truckload of inspiration on masculinity and mental health, some insights behind his works, and other glimpses of his journey in entirety.
What does Art mean to you?
I feel the goal is to challenge the mind of the viewer or the listener to think differently and to evoke a change in emotions or a change in attitude. At the end of the day, it’s all about the emotion evoked. So I feel like it takes a lot of thoughtfulness on the part of the artist to create something that evokes change and the emotions of others and hopefully a change in attitude.
I feel the essence of Art has been diluted, like a very few are willing to go the extra mile to create Art. Right now it’s all about selling and beauty. All about the commercial aspect of it. Yeah, as an artist you should think about- making sales, you should think about, your livelihood. I have no doubt about this, but you also want to think about what impact you’re having on the society. What impact you’re having on the coming generations. What impact you’re having on your own self. Because you’re seeking freedom, you want to express, and Art especially gives you freedom. So if it is not going to do that, if it’s not going to add to the society, or to whoever is listening to your work, then I don’t see it as Art. It’s not just about the skill of creating, anyone can be skilled. It goes beyond skills for you to call yourself an artist.
We are grateful to have you onboard this special ISSUE with the theme- Girt, in celebraton of inspiring men in the creatve industry, also to mark the 0v00 Internatonal Men’s Day. We understand the growing need to build a culture where men can express emotons like shedding tears without the fear of being looked down upon. The need to create spaces where men can be their most vulnerable selves with family and friends without the fear of being seen as or called a weakling. Do have any personal related experience to these? Can you share any quick tps that could help to normalize mental health related issues for both men and women?
It’s really sad. And I realized this in time. I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I had to talk to myself most times. But I don’t feel like everybody has the strength to talk to themselves. They need someone to talk to. So, I would say that you should, when things happen, I realized that we tend to project outwards instead of inwards. In all, let’s start with a safer environment. We need to project inwards and not outwards, not outwards in the sense that when we feel some type of way, we start to think about how the society would perceive us. We tend to like create a defense mechanism of holding back all within us. To project outward means being vulnerable and expressive without being scared of judgments and the bias. But before that can happen, everyone needs to see every other person as human. Now, every human has problems or emotional problems that are particular to each individual. Everyone goes through something and the fact is that we can appreciate. Appreciate how we feel inside and appreciate how other people feel too, then we’ll create a safe environment for people to express themselves regardless of what they’re going through. Also, I also feel like, the best gift you can give anyone sometimes is a listening ear. An ear that listens and doesn’t judge. And an ear that respects each individual’s unique emotions. Regardless of gender, male or female, the fundamental thing is we’re first humans before this, before the society created this bias. It’s up to the mind, you know, it’s up to the inner person. So I feel like everyone needs to go back and reflect inwards and appreciate our human nature and appreciate and respect other people too. And also create an environment where either a man or woman can speak or they feel what they’re going through without being judged or without having the feeling of being looked down upon. Because I’ve seen some incidents where someone comes up to speak and people start going all out, attacking them. We need to be considerate, because we are all going through something. We know when we’re acting mean or being insensitive. We need to be more sensitive about those around us and also create an enabling environment for more men to show more affection. Men should have real conversations with themselves based on all. We are not God, we’re humans too.
You described how you hope your works help to ‘push back on toxic masculinity and help men embrace their femininity.’ Can you please share more on this.
Men are most times not allowed to be perceived vulnerable. And we sadly attribute being feminine as a man to weakness. And it’s not true. There’s a lot of strength in embracing your inner self. And that’s what being feminine is about. It’s about discovering your inner strengths, your inner beauty, and turning that inner energy on. How you view the world, and how you approach things matter. There’s a lot of beauty and strength that lies in embracing your feminine side. It doesn’t reduce you. It doesn’t take from you. So I feel like if more men do this, the world would be a better place.
Mayowa Nwadike. Your name is beautiful. A representation of two major tribes in Nigeria. Isn’t that Art in itself? Do you mind sharing the meaning of both? Also, how was growing up like?
My name is a unisex name from what I know. And then it means the one who brings you joy.. And Nwadike is from the Eastern part of Nigeria. It means a kind of great warrior. So, it’s just interesting. What I stand for: bringing joy and fighting battles. That’s it. I guess that shows in how I see the world.
Your titles carry some elements of poetry. What inspires how you name each work?
I would say it’s being intentional about each piece. Picking the title is as important as making the piece itself. So I include that in the top process because the title of a piece can serve as a roadmap to my thought process as the artist. I want you to see the artwork and see the title and pause and think. Sometimes I don’t know the title of the piece until the end of the piece. But regardless, before I release something, I spend a lot of time thinking about the process, and the things I have to do on the piece. So it’s a section of my work that I take really seriously. I don’t joke about it, because you don’t want to turn off your audience, portraying something and targeting an entirely different thing. At the same time, you don’t want to be too descriptive with your poetry. You don’t want to have a complete sentence telling the whole process. You still want people to put the pieces together. You still want them to do their own assignment. So from writing poems and songs, I got used to a little bit of wordplay to work and reflect. I also do a lot of research. Sometimes I name my piece based on historical figures, especially in African history. So I write, I don’t just paint, I write stories, I first write the story. In the middle of the process, I come up with the title.
Do you feel creatives in developed countries are at advantage than those in developing countries?
I would say it depends on what lens you choose to look at it from. So, they are both at advantage, that depends on the lens you look at it from. So if you talk about accessibility to materials, funding and marketability, I’ll say, yeah, people outside in developed countries have it. But if you want to talk about richness in culture and then depth, having that depth to culture and meaning, I’ll say creatives in developing countries have an advantage. This is how you leverage environment and the society you grow up in as an artist. This is what makes an artist. It’s powerful. It makes you an artist, because you can first translate your challenges or your struggles to create Art.
‘Stumbling is Not Falling.’ A deep one here. Can share the inspiration behind this work?
Well, the inspiration came from a statement by Malcolm X. So at the time, I was on my other ideas and design learning African American history, and I’m African an artist. So, I came across the statement ‘Stumbling is not Falling.’ And it struck me. I was experimenting on popular symbols and fusing into portraiture. So in the piece you see a boy behind a symbol, reaching out and in his eyes, you can see gloom and sadness. Like ‘I’ve had enough.’ So I’m also trying to capture moments in time. I’m on more African works to help us realize that we might have stumbled in the past, but that doesn’t define us. We still need to come out strong and united and put the past aside. Embrace love. When we stumble and get up there’s a difference. You could stumble on something and lose your balance and continue. So yeah, it was just being interested in history and also being interested in societal issues at the same time.
Balancing work time and rest time is a struggle for many Creatives. Please share a few tips on how you try to balance work time, rest time and family time?
I’ll be honest, I’m still struggling in this area. I’m still struggling because I wouldn’t say I have this area figured out. But one thing I would say is, whatever I’m doing, I am always present. I live, I try my best to live in the moment. So if it is family time now, I’m present. If it is work time. I’m present. But regardless, I always put my mental health at the forefront. I feel like more persons need to know themselves. There’s no secret formula to it. You just need to know yourself, know what works for you. And knowing this will help you create a schedule that works for you. So yeah, this area, I am suffering a lot as a person. For the past few days, I’ve not really slept. Yeah, like some days I have got to put it all out with no sleep. So that rest part, I need a new consultation myself.
What does success mean to you?
I feel like success is reaching a point of satisfaction, reflecting on the work you have done. I find success in almost everything I do. From the conception of an idea, I find success. To the completion of a piece. I try my best to actually break the the little wins. The joy of the process of becoming. I celebrate every little thing. And still, you aim for the bigger things. I simply find success in almost everything I do.
You have had a lot of exhibitions, including physical and virtual ones, as an Artist what would consider most fulfilling about Art exhibitions?
I would say most artists, as they create and conceive ideas like privacy. And you’re considering the privacy of your own space. So getting it shown to the world helps in receiving feedbacks on what you’ve created and it’s an amazing experience. And same people interact with each other while viewing your works and begin building conversations based on of the Art you’ve created. It shows that part of your goal as an artist has been completed. Okay, I would say so far, my just concluded exhibition was my fulfilling moment because I had a different experience. People from different parts of the world sharing their perspective on the topic I raised. I was exploring how the African society has created an idea of what the woman should look like, or how the woman should be and how it takes time for most women to realize everyone is born powerful, everyone is born global, but it takes time for so many women to realize this power. And when they do, they still generously give back to the society. They give back to this same men. And at the end of the day, they don’t get enough credit for what they do. No one sees them, right? So I was exploring this topic and having different people, tell me, oh, I can relate. Oh, I’m from Egypt, and I can relate. So I mean, this is different. I was just focusing on the African society I grew up in. But I’ve seen people from different areas, feel empowered and getting this feedback one on one was a fulfilling experience for me.
If you could do a collab as a visual artist with any other artist, what art would that be?
I’ve collaborated with a few. I’ve worked with a few speakers. I recently started directing movies and stuff like that. I’ve had a couple of projects with people in this field. I’ve worked with poets. I’ve worked with music artists. I’ve worked with abstract painters. Regardless of what kind of Art they do. I’m really open to the Art community. I’m really open to working with any artist.
Massive Love Mayowa!
The ICONIC Team