Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Renaissance-guy Victor Ehikhamenor
I found this excellent Victor Ehikhamenor interview on SamUmukoro.com. VE is a talented creative writer, celebrated visual artist, design expert and culture buff who wants to institute a great museum someday. I like telling people I know him.
Read the FULL INTERVIEW (two pages). Excerpts:
SU: What inspired you to put together your articles into the book Excuse Me!?
VICTOR EHIKHAMENOR: There were a few inspirations or should I say reasons. One of them was that the articles which appeared under my weekly column at the now defunct NEXT newspapers and its online arm, www.234next.com, suddenly disappeared from the web. When the newspaper folded, the articles were no longer available online for people who needed to access them. I also couldn’t do so whenever I wanted to reference them and that became a concern for me. I did not want a situation where the articles will forever be lost, like ashes in a whirlwind. So I decided to repackage them, because there are many roads that lead to a farm. There is also the tradition of writers harnessing their columns into a book; it’s like bringing all your stuff under one roof. Dave Barry, the American humor columnist, has so many books based on his syndicated column; Ken Saro-Wiwa did it with his Simila articles that appeared in the old Daily Times, and many others. It was also a way of catering to my avid readers and loyal fans who kept asking about Excuse Me!
VICTOR EHIKHAMENOR: It means I am most likely not just going to drop a two centimetre dot on a large canvas or weave a large bogus narrative around a dot. When you look at my painting, you will see figures, some recognizable, some not. My works are a menagerie of different things, a representative magical realism, if you wish to call it that. I work in a way that you discover something new about it every day. Why I hate taming my style is because as a people, we enjoy the robustness of a story and I paint with so much zeal, like a frenzied story teller. My paintings are a story - folktales, myths, mystery, history and many more. And those themes don’t lend themselves to timidity or tameness. When a strong idea hits me hard, I respond with the same velocity and go haywire on canvas, paper or any available plain surface with a child-like exuberance.
SU: Why did you leave USA for Nigeria?
VICTOR EHIKHAMENOR: Multiple reasons, some serious, some funny. But there is a saying in my village that, no matter how comfortable it is a farmer should never let his rest under a shaded tree become permanent. Nigeria is home and America is house. Difference dey. As I grew older, that fleeting thought of “you are contributing one way or the other to the greatness of an already great country, while yours is going to the dogs” became rampant. I began to get very restive about the whole idea of remaining in a comfort zone. I also began to realize that Nigeria was no longer what it was when I first decided to leave. My friends who were visiting from Nigeria no longer wanted to stay back. When the opportunity came in 2008 for me to come and be the creative director for NEXT newspapers, I did not think twice. I packed my bags and left America. I have never looked back since because I am happier among my people and I feel I am contributing something to the greatness this country deserves.
SU: While writing or painting, do you take drugs, smoke marijuana or drink alcohol to fire up your creative imagination?
VICTOR EHIKHAMENOR: I was born high. I curtail my ‘highness’ and restlessness with my multiple creative endeavours. So as you can see, if I get any ‘higher’, I probably would be useless to myself and the society. Also, I would be insulting God who created me the way I am if I take substances to get creative. Let me tell you a quick true life story about marijuana: when I was growing up, most people who smoked marijuana in my village were way too high that some forgot to cut their hair, tend their farms or even live a normal life. If you like, you can call that madness. So, every now and then, your parent would point to one cool guy enjoying his spliff openly under a mango tree, with his clothes hanging from a nearby branch, and say to you, “You wan lost abi, you nor wan read book abi, ok…if you like go dey smoke morocco (marijuana) like that man”. So over the years, to keep my trousers on my waist, I knew not to experiment with marijuana or drugs. I don’t have issue with any of my creative friends who smoke marijuana to get inspiration or any reason whatsoever; it is just not my thing.