Today we’d like to introduce you to Erikan Ekefrey.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I started at seven years old. I was trained by my father, who is also a renowned artist. In 2012, I was a part of an international exhibition in Ivory Coast with several other artists from Africa. That exhibition gave me the exposure to have two managers. One of the managers had a gallery in Washington, DC. In 2014, I had my first exhibition in the United States. Since then, I’ve had exhibitions in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Denmark, Italy, South Africa, Senegal, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Algeria, Morocco, Belgium, Ghana, Canada, Equatorial Guinea, France, Germany, United States, England and China and looking forward to continuing my journey to have my works known all over the world.
Currently, I live in Atlanta where my works have been featured in festivals, galleries, restaurants, medical offices and events held by the City of Atlanta Art council as well as exhibited my works with the City of Los Angeles in a featured group exhibition.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not by a long shot. The road has been a series of smooth and rough steps. I’ve had managers who put in contracts that they would take 50% of my fee and I was left with little to no money after a sale. I’ve struggled to sustain my basic needs to feed myself and pay bills. I’ve worked three jobs at once when I wasn’t able to showcase my artwork. I’ve worked 18 hours at an oil company seven days a week. I’ve leaned on family and friends with my basic necessities to live. Despite all these struggles, they’ve shaped me into the person I am today. I’m grateful for each that brought me to this moment and have learned and grown into a much wiser person because of it. I’ve educated myself in promoting my art and owning my own business and making negotiations that benefit me and the buyer. I also make sure to pay it forward to other artists and teach them how to promote themselves more.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Through a distinct African style of narration, my paintings depict cultural heritage and traditions using vibrant colors and lyrical forms which are both non figurative and abstract that I often use mask-like faces.
I am influenced by my father who is also a renowned artist. He was inspired by his father who was a sculptor in carving wooden images and masquerade masks. Our family is the only to have this style of painting in the world. My style is cubism. I outline my images with black lines and design African motif patterns between spaces. I use colors to symbolize events and depict traditions using earth tones and colors that are complementary or Analogous color in nature.
I am inspired by music, dance, cultural activities, traditional ceremonies and everyday life through color and symbolism. My paintings celebrate the power of traditions and homage to the spiritual connection between the land and the people.
My art is conceptual. When I am creating, I am not the only one painting in front of the canvas. There is an inner man that is always directing me and guiding my brush strokes allowing images to flow with huge excitement. I am an artist because God created the world and made everything, so He instilled in me the power to create beautiful paintings for the world to see. I am continuing what my ancestors started by bringing African (Nigeria) art to the world through sharing the rich narrative of my culture, heritage and community.
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I don’t believe in luck (good or bad). I believe in God and that He (God) guides my footsteps. He (God) creates opportunities for me and it’s up to me to be ready to receive them.
Since birth, He (God) has favored me and watched over me. When I was born, until I was two or three years old, I had a very bad cough and my parents didn’t know what it was. We went to several hospitals and none of the doctors was able to diagnose my cough. After those three years or so my cough gradually stopped but it limited me on what I could do physically. I would always get tired quickly.
At 33 years old, I came to the United States for an exhibition and once done I went back home to Nigeria. After being home, I became very sick. The feeling I can describe it as was like something breaking my heart (physically and literally). I felt as though life was leaving my body. I went to the hospital again and the doctors didn’t know what was going on, but said whatever it was, only the United States or India could help me. Because I had previously been in the United States earlier that year, I went back to the United States to go to the hospital in Baltimore, Maryland where the doctors diagnosed me with having a hole in my heart. The doctors said they’d never seen anything like this before where a person survived for 33 years without treatment or being diagnosed. They said I was a miracle. They also said I had a 5% chance of living if they operated. I told them ‘I will not die‘. I signed the papers for the operation. After the operation, the doctors monitored me for a month and a few days and saw my heart was struggling to live. Today, eight years later, my heart is beating, stronger than ever. God is powerful. God is awesome. Me being here, able to share my story of luck as you’ve worded it, shows just how much my faith has shaped how I create and how each design is intentional. Each color is intentional. The life that is in each painting is intentional.
Opportunities are all around if you take the time to see them. There have been festivals that I have participated in and people come to my booth and they love my works. You never know who you will meet. And you never know how those people will connect you to the path in which God has the opportunity for you. Those same patrons that come to my booth will know someone in the art community, some gallery owner, some exhibit that my art will be a great fit and position me to keep pushing and doing great things in the art community because they see value in it.
So I’ll always say…I don’t believe in luck (good or bad). I believe in God and that He (God) guides my footsteps. He (God) creates opportunities for me and it’s up to me to be ready to receive them.
- Website: www.ErikanArtwork.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/erikanart
- Facebook: facebook.com/ErikanArtwork