The third in our series of portraits and insights into our creatives with Nigerian roots by photographer Mark Hill.
“Face painting has been and still is deeply rooted in the identity of both cultures going back through the ages. Whether it be war paint, a sign of status, to create fear, to highlight attractiveness or to create togetherness in celebration, face & body painting is a part of all of us. I wanted to show just how similar our cultures are but at the same time learn more about both cultural histories.” – Mark Hill
Photographer Mark Hill approached us earlier this year about “a series of mixed media paintings” based around some Irish Nigerian creatives which he had photographed. Wanting to merge the cultural backgrounds of both nations, Hill researched traditional and modern interpretations of tribal face painting from both cultures using “colour to show the symbolism” throughout the series. Read more on the thinking behind this project here.
This vibrant series fascinated us and also piqued our curiosity about his subjects, their relationship with the city and what their creative expressions are. Over a series of Zoom chats, we discovered each of their stories.
“I was born in Nigeria, shortly after I moved to London for four years and then back to Nigeria until I was 16. I’ve had a million career aspirations. At some stage I wanted to be a drummer, an artist, a rapper and producer at the same time (his sister is Grammy-Award winning artist Tems). What eventually stuck was graphic design, I moved to Ukraine for five years and where my creative side took off.
“I started design on photoshop and marketing campaigns for events in Kharkiv and then focusing strategically on marketing – producing magazines, editorial design, photoshoots. came here for an MBA in marketing in January 2017 and did not have a single connection.
“I thought I’d join the creative community, show some agencies my work and get hired as a designer. I quickly found out the creative community in Ireland, at least with respect to ad agencies, has gate-keepers, a lot about who you know and your pedigree and the fact I never studied design formally was a big deal. I prided myself on being a self-taught designer. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have both so it got me thinking about Studio BLVCK and how nice it would be to create a space where nobody is asking you what school did you go to or what agencies have you worked for before.
“It got me thinking about Studio BLVCK and how nice it would be to create a space where nobody is asking you what school did you go to or what agencies have you worked for before.
“Some people have made a good show of inclusivity as opposed to real. There is a bit of tokenism within the ad industry, it still has a long way to go in terms of decision making. There’s not enough talent at a certain level of experience seen in certain roles. for the people who say they are more inclusive, there is more that can be done to actively support it.
“I don’t think Ireland is a racist society. I think Ireland has subtle and systemised racism and ageism, combining the two is not good for young people who are not ethnically Irish. There is a long way to go, look at London it has had a lot of years to assimilate. There is always going to be growing pains when a new population starts to grow within an established one. People are not that open minded to see Irish people are everywhere. If they had the opportunity to do that why don’t others have the opportunity to come here.
“Right now Dublin is home, I own a house with my wife and have developed relationships but am still trying to needle myself into Irish society, I moved to Dublin in June last year and had my first exhibition within two months at Hen’s Teeth.
“STUDIO BLK is a multi-dimension business. I strongly believe an important conversation is to be had about people of colour and creating opportunities and recognition.”
Words: Michael McDermott
Portraits: Mark Hill
Illustrations by Jessica Louis who is represented by Studio BLVCK.
Path Paving – Lauryn Creamer Nwadike