Chuma Anagbado: Master Of Lines
Chuma Anagbado is an artist par excellence. With a vibrancy in his designs that speak of the innate appreciation of African arts, The Guardian Life speaks to him on his inspiration, his love for disciplined lines, and the African dynamism.
Tell us about your background and how it has influenced your design?
I was born in the northern part of Nigeria to middle-class civil servant parents. Their genes would be my first influence. I have always been that inquisitive type trying to deconstruct and reconstruct any object I laid my hands on. From a very tender age, I was drawn to nature, beauty, and hands-on activities.
What do you find most fascinating about art?
The expression, truism, spontaneity, it’s representative & cataloguing capacity. My art, for instance, is my observation of life and the African story. It captures the energy and vibrancy in the African psyche and culture through a deliberate usage of colours to highlight our heritage via curvilinear patterns inspired by the Igbo Uli art form and unspoken energy. My art goes beyond the picture, leaving enough room for viewers’ conversation, curiosities, and completion that open up internal and external dialogue in the collective unconscious memories that give us hope as humans. My aim is to express Africa’s strength and dynamism, showcasing our hidden history, our hidden superpowers, and to project our identity.
What inspires your designs?
My work is inspired by the ‘natural synthesis’ ideology of the Zaria Rebels made up of Nigerian artistic greats like Bruce Onobrakpeya, Demas Nwoko, Yusuf Grillo, Simon Okeke, Uche Okeke, and others. ‘Natural Synthesis’ promotes a fusion of the best of modern technology and Nigerian traditions, forms, techniques, and ideas into a hybrid art and design-making practice and conceptual framework. Much of my design work is minimalist and carries a tropical functionality and indigenous identity.
How would you describe the art appreciation culture in Nigeria?
I would say the industry is doing well and has a long way to go. We are in the age of the Sun and realisation and there is an ongoing renaissance shaping the Art of making and its appreciation. Part of it is resulting in a bandwagon effect which is fine at the moment to drive and gain traction. The eye of the world is on Africa and Nigeria is well poised to lead the pack for obvious reasons.
What can be done to encourage art appreciation in Nigeria?
Government Patronage, building art institutions, and designing a lot more art events. There is a need to plug Nigeria into the global art scene and I don’t think we are doing badly in this regard.
What is the inspiration behind setting up Nigeria’s first multidisciplinary Design firm, Aziza Design and a Design Hub, Mbari Uno?
Whilst studying design in the UK, I realised all design disciplines are really the same with one intent – solutions development. On getting back in 2014, I teamed up with my long-time friend Obinali Okoli to form Aziza Design. The firm blurs out the disciplined lines of the practice and focuses on offering a bouquet of design services tailored to the clients’ needs. We also structured the organisation such that we have designers, architects, developers, engineers, content writers, editors, project managers…, covering a wide range of skill sets, enabling us to deliver on our mandate to clients. In 2018, we realised the design industry was deeply fragmented, not fully developed, not cohesive, lacked spaces to thrive, lacked curriculum, and so on. We birthed Mbari Uno as a hybrid, a social enterprise and business that is focused on capacity building and social impact. Mbari Uno is our house of collaboration that has built a community of over 50,000 persons across sub-Saharan Africa and growing.
What is your favourite work so far and why?
I can’t say I have a favourite work, as each one appealed to a sense of accomplishment at the time. I would, however, point to design work done for Sweet Tooth Confectioneries, Buns & Batter Bakery & EUI Centre, all in Port Harcourt. The work spanned identity, space, organisation, product, and communications design to include design advisory as well. Worthy of note would be the extensive brand integration work done for Heineken in Bars & Outlets across Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, Nigeria. On the art Art, my current exhibition titled Mmuo showing at the centre for memories in Enugu would be my high point and it has opened doors for a lot of collaborations and positioned me rightfully within the Nigerian contemporary art space. That my art lent itself naturally to the emerging NFT space in web 3 powered by blockchain technology is a thing of note.
Tell us about your creative process?
Pretty much everything about me feeds, draws from, and propagates creativity. I easily spot how things can be made better and action thoughts on how to implement them. I continually observe and internalise the issues and once I start developing a solution for one, it’s a non-stop iteration till something workable is birthed. Afterward, I focus on improving that solution based on feedback after it has been deployed and tested.
A good number of your designs are in black and white. Is there a particular reason for this?
Yes, I intentionally add colour to the subject or areas of my work I want to highlight, leaving the rest area in black and white. I would like people to interact with my penmanship, which is the bedrock of all creative expression. I like the start contrast it creates and, in a way; it tells the story of how distinct realities can coexist – a thing most of us African live with and are not very aware of. We speak a western language and think in our language. That possibility gives a certain vibe to what we create and how we live. Something that is uniquely us. I like the black and white because it allows me to showcase the Igbo Ali art form in a natural state, allowing the viewer to enjoy the lines and I have been called a master of lines.