Pamela Enyonu is a copywriter at ‘Aggrey and Clifford’ and an artist. She’s the kind of woman you want around when things get a little crazy. Something in her air, her manner of speaking, the bold look on her face, her stride…it all tells you that this is a woman who knows how to get things done.
In her art, she bares her soul and isn’t shy about it. You may choose to blush, look away or judge, it doesn’t matter. She’ll be too busy making important statements through her art to fit into those tiny boxes women are often placed into.
What drives your passion for art?
Art is my center, my clarity, and my god. When I do art, the world rights itself. I am driven by stories. My art is a re-imagination of my and the stories of those around me. I am inspired by stories of triumph and self – empowerment.
Where did your artistic journey begin and how has it evolved since?
My artistic journey began when I was about 8 or 9 years when I made the decision to do art in primary 4. I vividly remember drawing a yam and finding it so easy and from then onwards, I never looked back.
I went to art school at Kyambogo University, majoring in printmaking and multi-media crafts elements. This has somehow found its way into my crafts. During my journey, there are times when I have deviated from my path, however, I have always found my way to the things I love.
Could you describe your artistic process?
For a long time, my process was pretty organic. However, these days I have deliberate plans, reading, collecting and educating myself on the stories I want to tell. I use words and photography a lot in my work.
My process begins with composing the narrative before I begin making the art. I then keep adding layers as my point of view gets clearer. For me, it’s important that my message is clear despite all the multi-layered looks.
I am currently acquainting myself with the more abstract thought processes and I have to admit, this is alien territory for me. I am hoping to produce more abstract work in the future.
How can African artists protect their art?
Africa is a vast continent that has inspired a lot of ideas at home and beyond. As African artists, you always run the risk of your work being misinterpreted. I don’t think it’s something we can control.
However, we can perhaps get ideas from other industries that successfully manage to protect their work. For example, coders sign their work through embedding unique codes that only them can interpret. Perhaps, as artists, we can begin using tech to protect our work.
Other than that, I think documenting your work and having a good lawyer’s number on speed dial should help.
What do you think will take for African art to gain as much appreciation as say European art?
We need to educate people on how to appreciate art. Unlike music where the beat just takes you, art is deliberate. You must immerse yourself in the art and the artists, learning their motivations, their ethos etc. That way you will gain a unique appreciation.
I think schools should be involved in the arts, arranging tours to galleries and meeting the artists etc. There should a deliberate effort to groom a culture of going to art places. Everyone should visit a gallery at least once a month.
If you could creatively collaborate with any artist in the world, who would it be and why?
Liberian-American artist Lina Viktor Iris and Lady Skollie from South African. Lina inspires my desire to ascend as a mixed media photographic artist. Her work evokes a sense of reverence and worship.
Lady Skollie, on the other hand, appeals to the rebel in me. Her work is thought-provoking in completely unexpected ways. I also like that she draws her inspiration and style from her Khoisan heritage. It’s empowering to embrace our narratives with no apologies.
What does the future look like for Pamela Enyonu?
All I want to do is make good art, turn into a competent carpenter and teach for rest of my life. Everything else will be a bonus.
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