INxSANIxTY Art Exhibition presents ‘Gidan Tunani’, a solo art experience by the artist in Copeland Gallery 1st-5th October. INxSANIxTY is an interdisciplinary artist whose artworks are inspired by his Nigerian heritage, London and the human condition.

When and how did you get interested in art?   

So as far back as I can remember, I drew, but my earliest memory would be around 6 ish – my Dad bought me and my siblings drawing books and pencils. I drew and found out I was good at it, even though for many years I never considered that art, for some strange reason. I just considered drawing like dancing, or even music; I always just did it. 

So for me it took ‘til late primary school at the age of 11 when I first went to a museum in Abuja – can’t remember the name – but it was with the school’s Art Club. Which, by the way, was weird how it happened because I wasn’t in Art Club, but the teacher in charge basically found me, gave me a consent form and said he had been looking for me and he knew I could draw; how I would never know. But that’s the first time I saw an abstract painting and had my real introduction to art.

Have you had professional training? 

No, the funny thing is even calling myself a self-taught artist feels a bit dishonest because I just did, like Nike. No YouTube videos, no tutorial in my primary and secondary schools. There were no art programs, just Art Club in primary school and, of course, in college and uni I studied Electronics Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering respectfully, so I wasn’t really exposed to art in an academic sense ‘til much later in life. Probably why I never considered what I did art.

Tell us about your art and what visitors can expect from the show. 

So to start with, I like to think of my work as more functional than entertainment, in the sense that I am governed by three principles. With every artwork my aim is to either teach the audience about themselves by way of questioning, ‘what do you feel?’, ‘why do you feel like that?’, and what could it possibly mean to myself and cultural heritage, by way of information and aesthetic, in regards to what you may be seeing. And, finally, to push the creative seeing or mind by way of emotional triggers. 

Over time I have gathered a few tricks to stretch the creative brain, through anatomising form, colours, the way the human eyes and mind works. 

‘GIDAN TUNANI’, which translates to ‘House of Thought’ in Hausa, a northern Nigerian language, is a composition of artworks from oil painting to digital artworks, sculptures and even drawings, put together with the intention to provoke thoughts and create dialogue; in regards to identity, displacement, faith, human condition, humour and the power of art. Just to name a few topics I would be exploring. 

You lived in Nigeria for much of your childhood; how did this inform your perspective and sense of self? How was your experience returning to London?  

So I lived in Nigeria from the age of 7 ‘till i was 15 but, yes, it has shaped my identity, especially in regards to feeling like I belong everywhere, because I don’t fit in anywhere. But also appreciation of my cultural heritage, especially because my parents are from different ends of the country. My father being Hausa Fulani from Northern Nigeria, with a very rich nomadic heritage, and mother from Edo, equally as rich but south and also linked to the British stolen art and colonisation; another topic we shall explore in ‘GIDAN TUNANI’.

You lead an art ‘force’ or collective, InxSANIxTY ART. How many creatives are on board and how do you work together?  

So we are currently 7; it comprises artists, dancers, filmmakers, designers and musicians. Most of us do more than one thing, so we work by way of collaboration, but we operate more as a platform or workforce, as opposed to a group so to speak. For example, someone in the group might have an idea to make a film about chicken and chips; we come together, talk it through, pull resources together and we go ahead and do it. Or I might have an opportunity to curate a show of some sort and I essentially get everyone involved, as appropriate of course, and our sole purpose is to push creativity while creating a community of artists who could benefit from projects by way of connecting the dots. 

Are there other Black History Month listings in London you’re looking forward to visiting in October? 

Because of Covid some exhibitions I was really looking forward to have been pushed back, but I do still have 2 more events myself. So between that and hoping to catch a virtual/online event, if I get a chance to.

You live in Peckham – what’s the best thing about SE15? 

Easiest question ever and, for me, it has to be the people. People make Place. Its culture, its vibrance, we are just different: its Nigeria, English, Jamaican, Afghanistan, Persian; everyone really. It is art, music, food, land of the brave, community driven, creative and so much more… I know, I love this place even though growing up it wasn’t the safest, but I am proud to be from Peckham; it’s Home. 

What does the rest of 2020 & 2021 hold for you? 

I’ve got 2 more exhibitions before the year runs out and then January I am back here with you guys for the Back Room gallery solo exhibition, a few short films coming out in 2021 and doing a good few things with the African center, so more art and art and art.

Visit INxSANIxtY’s exhibit Gidan Tunani: House of Thought at Copeland Gallery between 1st and 5th October, please register your visit here.

Oh and follow them on Instagram @INxSANIxty.