By Udemma Chukwuma
You would agree that ankara fabric is gaining popularity across the globe. The fabric, which is primarily associated with Africa, has gone beyond an item for making clothes. It has become not just a tool of expression for fashion designers. Today, artists are experimenting and creating magnificent artworks with it.
Some Nigerian artists who have worked and are still working with ankara as medium Kolade Oshinowo, George Edozie, Yinka Shonibare, Marcellina Oseghale and Peju Alatise.
“I look at the importance of fabric in our daily life, no matter how beautifully one dresses; you can still find fabric around us. I like that part of the fabric,” said Oseghale, who started working with the medium in 2012.
“The material I work with is fabric, which I source from tailors. These are fabrics the tailors want to throw away; most times they don’t have anything to do with it, so I collect it from them and use it to create artworks.”
The uniqueness of Oseghale’s work is her ability to create texture with the fabric on canvas. “The way I glue the fabric to the canvas gives me the texture. I don’t lay it flat, I use bond, then I put it on the canvas, I make sure is not flat, I raise it up, then when it dries it stays the way I placed it on the canvas,” she explained.
Other aspect of her work that cannot be ignored is the way she manages to create shades, space and colours with the fabric. “When cutting the part I want to use, I consider the shades; I don’t want the darkest colour to be where the eyelash should be. I also consider the hue of the fabric if it will be dark enough to the dark area.”
Recalling what inspired her to work with fabric, she said: “I was making jewelleries while in school, I wanted to try something else and something new that is how I started working with fabrics.”
Preserving the material was a major challenge for Oseghale when she started working with the medium. “I thought of how to solve this problem and I did a research and discovered that I can preserve the fabric with acrylic glaze. The glaze protects the fabric from durst and other harmful things that could damage the fabric. After I am done with the work, I apply the glaze on it to protect it, making difficult to pull off the fabric from the canvas.”
Oseghale is currently working on her series, which she calls the Pearls Series. “I am fascinated with the way the pearl is made. The pearl only happens when sand or an irritant gets into an oyster. The oyster bears the irritant and it starts to make some flu and eventually the pearl is made. It takes about twenty years to get a pearl. And you don’t get pearl from all oysters, so I like that part. This part inspired this series. I like this style as it looks like you can see through it. The work can breath, I like giving the work breathing space.”
As a science student in secondary school, Oseghale was not fulfilled with her five credits and left science for art. “I didn’t feel fulfilled as a science student even though I had five credits. I knew it wasn’t where I ought to be. It was after I graduated I felt I didn’t go where I should have gone …I was not where I was supposed to be. That was how I started looking for where I could go and study art.
That was the motivation for studying fine arts at the Lagos State Polytechnic."
She was recently featured in a book entitled, The Art of Nigerian Women. Though Oseghale says patronage of her works is low, she remains committed.
“I love to express myself with art,” she said.
“It’s either I am writing or I am doing art. Art to me is a self expression; art is a tool I use to express myself. I raise questions on what you are pondering about with my work.”