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"Ancestral Manifestations" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Meet Nigerian 'New Media' Artist, Alexis Tsegba, Whose Work Explores the Intersection of Nature & Technology

We speak with the digital artist about the Afrofuturistic themes in her work, exploring culture through technology and her creative influences.

As a 7-year-old growing up in Benue State, Nigeria, Alexis Tsegba, loved watching her teenage cousin draw natural, flowing pencil strokes to create comics. But when she asked him to teach her, he pushed her aside with a scoff and a "No!". Later, he offered her his mentorship in exchange for payment. But headstrong and determined, Tsegba picked up her own writing utensil and a sheet of paper and began meticulously sketching out what she remembers as one of her first works.

At 15, she remembers painting water-colors, and at 18, she moved on to acrylics. Despite studying law at the University of Reading, it wasn't until completing her Masters in Creative and Media Enterprise from the University of Warwick that she realized the infinite artistic possibilities available to her.


"Beauty Overflows" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"It was really cool and fun moving away from law and doing something I was more excited about," she says. Her dissertation had been on freelancing and how to use Social Media and YouTube as tools for new media work; this abstract way of thinking helped her realize she could combine her eclectic love of such things as painting, sketching, photography, landscape, portraiture, and architecture. "I don't know why but writing my dissertation gave me inspiration to dabble in the digital art field," says Tsegba. She learned to compose images with all of these elements.

When we speak, Tsegba, now 24, is an artist who approaches new media art by creating visual experiences. Her surrealist portraits often feature mystical landscapes. She documents modern day Africans in jarring settings and enthusiastically speaks about how her evocative collages center on Afrofuturism, reimagining religion and exploring gender.

"Constellations" by by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tsegba has dedicated copious amounts of time to developing the concepts she wants highlighted and she may not believe it yet but her nonlinear work is disrupting the way individuals perceive art. With Afrofuturism, she states, "I aim to show the complexity of the relationship between our culture and how we use technology." She suggests we should, "change the narrative that we are this aqua people and that somehow being closer to nature is backwards."

Her works touch on what our reality is now and where it could be. With religion, she recalls, "I was raised Christian and because I was interested in theology I would read about other religions." Her curiosity has brought about her need to re-envision the things she doesn't agree with in the Bible. Beyond this, she explores the stereotypical assumptions African people tend to have about gender. She refutes the, "narrative in Nigeria that men are not supposed to be physically close or show affection or emotion. When men are seen as close with one another, it's seen as diabolical." She, instead, celebrates closeness and tenderness between men.

"Creation" by by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As one would imagine, Tsegba's process is one comprised of trial and error, researching and "piecing images together to find a story." She pushes boundaries much like the individuals who influence her own work. She draws inspiration from collage artist Victoria Topping and her use of the senses to create vibrant pieces; illustrator Christoph Niemann from whom she's learned to see the world as an abstract body of shapes, forms and structures; writer Chimamanda Adichie who has taught her to harness the ability to be unafraid to speak out when she feels something doesn't sit right; and she's gawked at the skill and scale of fellow Nigerian visual artist Njideka Crosby and the portrayal of tenderness she employs while portraying ordinary Nigerian settings. Despite stating that she's "holding back", Tsegba's virtual body of work speaks volumes.

*See more of Tsegba's work below.

"Divinity" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"Face of God" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"Love Is Here" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"Mother of God" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"Observing Beauty" by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

"Ready" by by Alexis Tsegba. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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Installation view of Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara © The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2020, photography by Anna-Marie Kellen.

The Met's New Exhibition Celebrates the Rich Artistic History of the Sahel Region

'Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara' is an enxtensive look into the artistic past of the West African region.

West Africa's Sahel region has a long and rich history of artistic expression. In fact, pieces from the area, which spans present-day Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, date all the way back to the first millennium. Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara, a new exhibition showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, dives into this history to share an expansive introduction to those who might be unfamiliar with the Sahel's artistic traditions.

"The Western Sahel has always been a part of the history of African art that has been especially rich, and one of the things that I wanted to do with this exhibition, that hasn't done before, is show one of the works of visual art...and present them within the framework of the great states that historians have written about that developed in this region," curator Alisa LaGamma tells Okayafrica. She worked with an extensive team of researchers and curators from across the globe, including Yaëlle Biro, to bring the collection of over 200 pieces to one of New York City's most prestigious art institutions.

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Images courtesy of Zeitgeist.

Naira Marley, Rema and Flavour Announced as Headliners for 2020 Gidi Culture Festival

Gidi Culture Festival announces Naira Marley, Rema and Flavour as headline acts for this year's edition of the largest music and arts festival in West Africa.

The 7th edition of the Gidi Culture Festival—the largest music and arts festival in West Africa—is set to take place this year from April 9th-11th.

Naira Marley, Rema and Flavour have recently been announced as the headline acts for what promises to be yet another epic instalment of the festival.

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Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

In Conversation with Daniel Kaluuya and Melina Matsoukas: 'This isn't a Black Bonnie and Clyde film—our stories are singular, they're ours.'

'Queen and Slim' lands in South Africa.

Melina Matsoukas and Daniel Kaluuya are everything their surroundings at the opulent Saxon Hotel are not—down-to-earth and even comedic at times. Despite the harsh lights and cameras constantly in their faces, they joke around and make the space inviting. They're also eager to know and pronounce the names of everyone they meet correctly. "It's Rufaro with an 'R'? Is that how you say it?" Kaluuya asks me as he shakes my hand.

Matsoukas, a two-time Grammy award winning director and Kaluuya, an A-list actor who's starred in massive titles including Black Panther and Get Out, have every reason to be boastful about their achievements and yet instead, they're relatable.

The duo is in South Africa to promote their recent film Queen Slim which is hitting theaters today and follows the eventful lives of a Black couple on the run after killing a police officer. It's a film steeped in complexity and layered themes to do with racism, police brutality and of course Black love.

We caught up with both of them to talk about just what it took from each of them to bring the powerful story to the big screen.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Sajjad's artwork for "Pull Up" from Burna Boy's African Giant. Courtesy of the artist.

Meet Sajjad, the Artist Behind Burna Boy's 'African Giant' Album Art

We sit down with the artist to talk about the art behind African Giant and his use of currency to creates collages that tell ambitious stories.

"Currency is something that for the most part doesn't exist," Sajjad tells me over a crackling phone line. It would have been hard to hear him if he didn't speak firmly. "It's all about trust. We trust that a bill is worth a certain value. That's what makes it real. It's an interesting duality play on something that's real but at the same time isn't."

This philosophy is what informs Sajjad's art. Using currency, the artist creates collages that tell ambitious stories about unifying countries. In 2019, he created the artwork for one of the best and most important albums to come out of the modern Nigerian—and African—music scene, Burna Boy's Grammy-nominated African Giant.

Sajjad got the idea to start using currency as an artistic medium in 2016, when stopping at a New York City bodega—"these little convenience stores on every corner that sell everything!"—where he saw that they had put up dollar bills on the wall from the first few people who had bought things there. It was at that moment something in him clicked and he realized how many powerful stories physical bills could tell and represent. Inspired by this, Sajjad began a journey of using currency and other mundane everyday objects to create art that tells a bigger story.

We sat down with the artist to talk about designing the album art of Burna Boy's African Giant, the power of currency and what the future holds for him.

Sajjad. Photo: Dan Solomito

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