Victoria Miro Gallery, June 2017 (1)

The other day I was reminded that I have been drawn to images even before I was 6 years old. I asked my mother for a camera when she asked what I wanted for my 6th birthday gift. She got me a disposable Kodak but never allowed me to use it. My guess now is that at the time I was fascinated, as I still am, by how photography enables you to see things and people outside of themselves and from multiple perspectives, as if you’re playing God, all-seeing and omnipresent.

Fast forward to summer 2015: my first real long vacation from school; when I had the time and the camera to explore photography in a way that was true to my voice. Because literature was my first passageway into the world of art, I approached photography through a lot of reading (especially Teju Cole’s essays) and was introduced into this way of seeing that cared about everything. I was also reading a lot of other literature at the time (Igbo poetry, magical realist novels, Chinua Achebe’s essays, etc.) that dared me to hold my glances on for a little longer every time I went out with a camera. They promised me that all I was used to seeing was not all there was and that in everything and everywhere, there was at least value and at most beauty. I remember going out one afternoon to take pictures of the buildings in my estate and when I got back home, my father asked me “And what is the point of all this?” Embarrassed, I answered, “so that when things have changed, 100 years from now, who knows, people can see these pictures and know these buildings were here.” I remember agreeing with his facial expression, that I made no sense; the way things stand before us so decidedly, you would think they were eternal.

It’s been two years since then and I am still in the process of understanding my pull to photography. When next I am in Enugu, I will take more pictures of my estate buildings and the things and people on the road and the churches and – not the market, never the market, I’m still too scared. And when people ask me why? I will tell them with a lot more confidence backed by knowledge “so that when things have changed, 100 years from now, who knows, people can see these pictures and know all of this was here.” I will also add that it is also for us, here, now, and elsewhere to see ourselves, outside of ourselves. To see that when we look up from our lives, this is what we look like and this is what other human beings like us look like, that this is what we have been and this is what we could be. That this is what we and others, in the past and elsewhere, have made of the world around us and this is what we can make of this world around us.

My photography is concerned with this, but not just. It makes sense that art—the produce of culture, the distilled divine—can be extracted from everything. I have come to believe that everything can tell us something about ourselves or at least speak to us, in a way that is valuable to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. I am also interested in learning and exploring the language of aesthetics and the visual image because we as human beings speak it, and I’m trying to understand us better.

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