Fred Ebami: Dreamer, Darer, Challenger And Storyteller
Fred Ebami is an African digital pop artist whose work has been shown in Douala, Marrakech, London, Johannesburg, Miami, Monaco and Paris, amongst others.
Showing in Lagos for the first time with Aga Concepts, his arresting work brings a refreshing point of view to conventional pop art. A founding member of the Collectif On A Slamé Sur La Lune, he talks to the Guardian Life about the inspiration behind his art and being a bridge between the past and the future.
After showing in several African and European countries, why did you decide it was time to come to Lagos?
I believe this is the right time. To show in Lagos has always been a dream of mine. The culture, mindset, tradition, music, and so many other things convinced me that after showing in several African and European countries, it was time to come to Lagos. So many things attract me to this country; the Nigerian energy, mindset, the culture, the way traditions are respected and the music, they all inspire me. You can say I am a brother from another mother. I lived in England for 20 years and I met many Nigerians there and was introduced to the food, music, films and style. Nigerians put Africa on people’s minds worldwide.
What is the inspiration behind your art and designs?
My inspiration comes from my background; African (my roots, traditions and histories), Europe (where I was born and the culture) and American (for my first inspirations, the comics, music, style, sport and the American dream). My journey through life also inspires me. I went to Cameroon for the first time when I was ten years old and that trip connected me even more to the motherland in every way-culturally, historically, design and energy-wise. I was born and raised in France and being African; I had to look at the world in a certain way and find my place in that world. However, my life’s education and self-development were provided by the schools I went to, going to the museum and even from the TV and I am really grateful for that. The culture, easy access to technology and so on allow me to look around me for inspiration, helping my art and journey through life. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many countries, see many cultures, hear many stories and see many designs, which form a mix in my head, helping me with the stories I want to tell. In a nutshell, my roots, American comics, the pop art scene, TV, music and artistes like Victor Omar Diop, Malick Sidibe or Oliviero Toscani all give me inspiration, amongst others.
You partnered with Aga culture for the Lagos Edition Pepper Soup. How does this collaboration serve you?
The Aga collaboration is part of the evolution I have planned long ago. I always wanted to push my craft to another level by transforming my prints into something people can touch and use. Also, Aga is popular for its traditional designs and avant-garde approach, the perfect combination for both of us. Let us take the mat, for example, which is usually used to lie down. We decided to transform it into an art piece and you can decide if you want to lie on it or put it on your wall.
You say your art is a bridge between past and future. How are you exemplifying this?
From time immemorial, painting was done with real paint on a surface before you could be called an artist. I started out by using computers as my paintbrush. When I was younger, I was always attracted to film prints and everything put on paper. I always knew this was my path. I taught myself how to use Adobe suite and this helps me create those film0 prints I used to see on the streets then. Then I thought, why not create art with this? My first critics then didn’t think it was art, but I persevered. At my first exhibition in Lille, a mother with her daughter came to the thank me with the mom saying though her daughter was four, she explained my artwork to her and there and then, there was no turning back. I realised I could be a link between the old generation that taught me everything and the new, using a language they both understand.
A dreamer, darer, challenger and storyteller, what should we look out for next from you?
I want to inspire other artistes to feel at ease in whatever craft they are in, so I’ll keep breaking down these walls. I want to be everywhere; I want to be on walls; I want to be in your house; I want to be on you. I want to be taught at schools; I want to be in art and history books. I want to inspire people so that this becomes a movement, and it’s no longer surprising to see young African artists being celebrated on global stages. I want people to see that digital art is also an art form.