Chidi's struggle to continue his work in Vancouver, despite the cold, has resulted in a remarkably colorful and emotional collection of painting and poetry which shares the richness of his culture and heritage. "My inspiration is life and my heritage, which is dynamic and rich in cultural values of life," says the artist. "The struggles to survive in a strange place have lead me to self, which has affected all my works for good. The move has helped me to appreciate the richness of the African sun. Hence, a color scheme to reflect my world."
Above: Echoes of Legend Drums by Chidi Okoye
Vancouver's wind blows cold and hard, but for
African-born artist, Chidi Okoye, its icy bite
became the inspiration to recreate the warmth
of his beloved Nigerian sun on canvas.
b y K a t e V a l e
"I have never wanted to paint at this age for the love I have for sculpture, but all that changed when I was confronted by the cold wind of Canada," says Chidi. "I lacked space which is vital for huge sculptures, and even for the small ones. The only option was to get some canvases and work in my room, which was not the best of places to work. But at the time it was the best at least to save my fingers from the frost bits of cold wind."
Prior to relocating to Canada, four years ago, Okoye's focus was sculpture. He trained at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Nigeria, and was Lecturer in Fine Arts for six years at Federal Polytechnic in Oko, Nigeria. During that time Chidi also published two books: "Lamentations" a collection of poems and sculptures, and "Feasting in the Sky" a book of folk tales.
Okoye's rich use of color definitely works to project the warmth and brightness he misses and seeks to recreate, but the effects of his work on the beholder reach far beyond that. Through his talent and intense feeling, Chidi manages to take us with him into the moment to experience the intense emotion in the scenes which he portrays. A tour of his collected works is sure to draw out a full gamut of sentiments.
Look up to the moon and sacred mountains
of the sky
Listen to the songs of sacred land
Feel the healing wind of sea
Step into the vibrations of energizing
songs of sun.
Let's dance beyond rhythm of sorrow
Lift our legs and hands in praise
Dance to the wind of drums for the
rejuvenation of souls.
Left: Healing Dance by Chidi Okoye
A number of his paintings expose a keen insight into female emotion, a trait one might consider unlikely for a man in our culture. "I consider myself lucky to have come from a culture that celebrate women, and I do celebrate women," Chidi remarks. "I believe in the strength and wisdom of Mother Earth. I believe that there will be less friction between men and women if we all should make effort to discover who we are and our mission on earth, we will have little to fight about."
Chidi has come to see himself as a "Cultural Ambassador," and the majority of his work has centered around that focus. But more recently, he has expanded his range to include some paintings of the Rockies of British Columbia. In 1996, his poster design for Sundiata Arts Festival in Seattle, Washington, won first place and he was guest artist there. He also designed a logo, "The Spirit of the Nation" for the Canadian Heritage Society in Victoria, BC. "It is all about
sharing," he says.
Since his arrival from Nigeria, Chidi has participated in twenty plus group exhibitions, and given lectures and slide shows in museums in North America and Canada. His work can be found on display in private and public collections in Nigeria, United States, Canada, Germany, Spain and France, and his limited edition prints are sold in twenty-eight cruise ships in North America.
Above: Dawn of Tomorrow by Chidi Okoye
In the past four years, he has published three books, with a fourth on the slate for next year. "Echoes of Life" a collection of poems and drawings, "Healing Dance" a collection of poems and drawings, and "Forms and Feelings" a coffee table book of paintings and poems, are on the market now, with "Wind
of Drums," a coffee table book of paintings and poems, scheduled for publication in 1999.
Okoye is also founder and president of Chidi Creations , a home of contemporary African art, which publishes and markets his prints, art cards, and most recent endeavor clothing. He hopes to create unisex designs which incorporate Uli symbols and African fabrics that will be on the market soon.
For a more complete exhibition of this ambitious, talented and accomplished artist's work, see his web site,
DAWN OF TOMORROW
We have tilled grounds of thorns and thistles
Weeded weeds of solitudes and sorrows
to enrich our bans with peace and pleasure
We have stumbled on paths of pains,
climbed mountains of death to stay
alive in troubled world of hate
We have managed to stay strongin deep
sea of race
Long awaited moment has come,
dreamed and desired sun in heart of winter,
Priceless moment of life, the melting point of
troubled times, dawn of a new day.
"What do I want people to take away from my work? I want those who see my art to celebrate life, find meaning in sharing, and begin to
love themselves in order to love others, in return that they will be loved.
I want those who have problems to be healed by the vibrations of my colors and
the words of my soul." Chidi Okoye
Illustrations and Poems Copyright Chidi Okoye
<--viewzone table of contents--