Path Paving – Aisha Bolaji

Posted 11 months ago in Arts and Culture

The fourth in our series of portraits and insights into our creatives with Nigerian roots by Photographer Mark Hill.

“White paint has been used to pay homage to the Nigerian heritage and woad for the Celtic. The explosion of colour behind them represents the Nigerian flag – green and white – while they also represent the Irish flag – green, white and orange. Merging both cultures at the same time…” – 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.

Aisha Bolaji

Aisha Bolaji is a Nigerian-Irish filmmaker in her final year in IADT.

“I was born here in Tallaght 2000 to Nigerian refugees. I know my mom was pregnant with my brother at the time and stayed in Direct Provision. I still do feel connected to my Nigerian-ness and its culture and that will forever influence my art. Even my current project (End of the World Tour, her graduate show short) follows a Nigerian teen and her love for boy bands and how that is at odds with her mum’s more religious beliefs.

“There’s also definitely a disconnect because I wasn’t born and raised there but as part of the diaspora I get to explore those elements of my identity especially through art with Nigerian music and afrobeat and growing up watching Nollywood so I do feel connected in that sense to surreal, fun, fantasy, elements.

“I think being that first generation immigrant kid can be very intimidating but also inspiring because you get to pave a way for others like you to sort of look up to you. There is a certain responsibility there.”

“I’m one of the co-founders of GalPal collective (with Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe) which started during lockdown and we did a lot of content creation which was suited to that time. We wanted to find a space where underrepresented people in arts and media could tell their own story. In the last year or so we’ve wanted to move more into community cultivation and creating physical spaces with events which can connect people…navigating the creative community and finding a place for ourselves within it is important.

“I still live at home and stuff. It’s weird because it feels we are stunted as a generation by living at home. I wake up and look around and I am in my teenage bedroom even though I am in my final year in college. I see myself as rooted within the Dublin creative scene. I think the community is blossoming a lot but it is becoming unlivable in terms of affordability.

“I think there is this pressure on a lot of young people of colour especially with a platform to sort of present themselves as the perfect token minority so as not to cause any backlash from others watching from the outside. I think being that first generation immigrant kid can be very intimidating but also inspiring because you get to pave a way for others like you to sort of look up to you. There is a certain responsibility there.

“I’ve done some small projects like music videos and other shorts… I was the shorts programmer for DIFF this year and am the programme assistant for Catalyst International Film Festival (March 30, Limerick). I’m fortunate that I have a family that is supportive of me and what I want to do. They are my number one cheerleaders, They put their energy and effort into my film career which is a big ask and not every family can do that. For mine if it means eating rice and beans for a month they’ll do it.”


Words: Michael McDermott

Portraits: Mark Hill

Read more in the series here:

Path Paving – Lauryn Creamer Nwadike

Path Paving – Farouk Alao aka Farouk858

Path Paving – Adetunji Paul


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