Victor Ehikhamenor – Reviving the Culture of Art
We are too westernized and the African culture is dying. Thankfully, a shift is occurring. It is slow, but it is sure and it does not shy away from recognition. Of late, creatives are intertwining their work with some sort of cultural symbolism, representative of our ancestral history, or the traditions we must carry along.
When we consider artists that are playing important roles in reviving appreciation for Nigerian and African culture as a whole, Victor Ehikhamenor, more popularly known as Victorsozaboy, is definitely top five. Victor is an award winning writer, visual artist and a photographer from Udomi-Uwessan, Edo State and an ambassador of the arts. Ventures Africa says he is “undeniably one of Africa’s most innovative contemporary artists” and one of “42 African Innovators to Watch”. His recent work yet is the ‘Prayer Room’ a large visual installation that showcased during the 2016 Dak’Art Biennale in Dakar which created a buzz in the art sphere and on social media.
Victor reveals “Art is everything. For me, it is a way of life and I don’t think that is peculiar. Art is universally a way of life, no?”
Speaking on ‘The ‘Prayer Room’ which was a balance of visual art and storytelling, Victor says “The Prayer Room is an accumulation and confluence of multiple inspirations, ranging from memories to history to culture to contemporary way of life.” He goes on to explain, “Many people tend to forget that we had these kind of places in our rural communities. Sometimes, they existed in the form of an elders’ council’s building where the community members go to seek solace in God’s face. These special places in my community when I was growing up were not devoid of art; they were celestially and aesthetically decorated with signs and symbols to delineate them from regular places. Whereas others can boast of the Sistine Chapel, we had multiple places of prayers that were not properly documented in the past, and sometimes I reimagine these places and tend to replicate them.”
The elders’ council’s buildings from days of old were however not the only inspiration for The Prayer Room. Victor shares that The Prayer Room, in some ways, references the transatlantic slave trade. “Goree Island could be sighted from where The Prayer Room is situated, and when I first got to the place, I wondered if Africans running away from slave traders hid in that spot and prayed to their gods for safety. So, like I said, the piece was inspired by many strands of consciousness.”
As a visual artist, there is an underlying meaning to his art and what he hopes his art would evoke from whoever comes across it. For Victor, it varies from piece to piece, but he does hope one thing for his art in general; “I just want people to know we have never lived in a vacuum when it comes to art. Art has always been part of our existence in Africa, Nigeria. We need to embrace that and stop demonizing it as some want to do for selfish reasons.”
As an art veteran, he considers his greatest accomplishment as a visual artist to be “coming back home to Nigeria, after years in America, to reconnect with my people, country, family and fellow artists in Nigeria”.
As a writer and an artist, Victor boldly complements one art form with the other. If you are a follower of Victor’s social media pages, you gain a special insight of his artwork as well as the story the piece is intended to tell. This is because he doesn’t consider his art and writing to be mutually exclusive. In his words, “I am in a romantic polygamous affair with both art forms. They come to play together majority of the time. I am glad I embraced both at an early age and have kept them since.”
Speaking on his artistic journey thus far, Victor says “So far so good, still the journey continues in a kaleidoscope of history, memory, culture, people, places and self.” Certainly, we are sticking around for the ride.