In Conversation with Ojima Abalaka
In this One + One interview, curator and writer Veronica Elizabeth Thomas talks to Ojima Abalaka, an illustrator based in Abuja, Nigeria.
We came across her work on Instagram and found her use of minimal colors and spacing interesting. We contacted Abalaka to find out more:
VET: Do you feel as though your upbringing informs your art?
OA: Well, that's part of who I am so I guess it does. Some of the stylistic choices I make in my work are inspired by Nigerian pop and visual culture.
VET: Honestly, I don’t see many Black minimalist artists, how did you come about this style?
OA: I'm also a photographer and I was once very into minimalist photography. I still am, actually. This was before I started illustrating. It just seemed like a natural transition to continue in that style and that's why my very first illustrations are very minimal.
VET: Because your work is very minimalist, with few subjects and objects to work with, how do you choose which colors you want to put in a piece?
OA: I now have my go-to colors but in the beginning, I just used to experiment with random colors until I was satisfied. But I've always been drawn to warm tones and yellow is my favorite color to use. I want the colors to be calming.
VET: I noticed that your pieces often have a child or young woman hiding behind a wall or an older adult, why is that?
OA: That's just me lurking in the corners. The girl (who is sometimes me) is the character I started off with. She's in all my early works. I started to miss her presence when I started drawing other people so I started to put her in random places. It's really just me trying to move on (quite unsuccessfully) from the character.
VET: Which piece are you most proud of?
OA: Wow, that's tough! They're all my babies! But I'll choose "Madam the Madam (with Boyz)". I really had to challenge myself to complete it. I also learned a lot from the research I carried out while I was doing it and it still informs my work today.
VET: What future projects can we look forward to from you?
OA: Hopefully more personal projects inspired by Nigerian pop culture and Nigerians!