A series of portraits and insights into our creatives with Nigerian roots.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
Lauryn Creamer Nwadike
First up is Lauryn Creamer Nwadike, a textile designer and multidisciplinary artist in her third year in NCAD.
“My mum is Irish and grew up here. My dad came over when he was 23 from Nigeria and never really went back. From the get go, the way I was raised as a mixed race kid in a predominately white area, my parents always made me comfortable with my skin, knew where my roots were so I never really questioned it.
“It’s quite infantilising to be still at home.”
“My mum remembers me being in a playground and a kid coming up to me and saying, ‘if you’re brown, why is your mom white’ and I just turned around straight away and said, ‘cause my dad’s black.’ Like how do you not get that?
“It was during lockdown that I started looking into the Nigerian side of me and I found out that it had this really cool funk underground scene in the ‘70s around the time of Fela Kuti. There is this one designer Mowalola who had a show for London Fashion Week. When I found out she was Nigerian, I was like that’s so cool. She’s someone who inspires my work.
“It’s quite infantilising to be still at home when you’re meant to be entering a new chapter in your life. It’s really upsetting that you can have a beautiful connection to a place like this and the people who are around but it’s inevitably going to have to end because no one can sustain a career here. I don’t want to be living in my mom’s house for the next 20 years. I could put my arts to the side and work my ass off in a full-time job to put a roof over my head but that’s not the quality of life I see for myself.”
“It kind of reminds me of Nigeria in that you are walking down these streets and there’s like with mud shacks on one side and these mansions with gold steps on the other. There is this complete wealth gap that is crazy. Even in Dublin, it is heart-breaking to see this on street corners with homeless people and others splashing cash everywhere.”
Words: Michael McDermott
Portraits: Mark Hill