Updated: Sep 4
Aluu Prosper Chigozie, a self-taught visual artist with an emphasis on Afrocentrism and a Pan-Africanist goal to promote unity in Africa, chats with us about his art, the policies that must be put in place to support artists, and the significance of his pieces. He is also a Nigerian civil engineer from the Ebonyi State who began studying surrealism in 2021 as a means of self-expression; this motivation is now apparent in his works from the year 2022.
“As an artist who always has focused on human expressions, feelings, emotions, and psychology, it was a means to easily express how I feel and how the people around me feel through the use of emojis in place of human heads.”
We got to see how his art is a means to push a narrative of a better representation of the African race. Beyond his art, Aluu prosper sees himself as an Oliver Twist, always wanting more, always believing there’s more to his art and life than what he currently experiences, and this is just a starting point for him to soar higher.
Here’s our conversation with him below:
What’s your earliest memory of creating art?
My earliest memory of creating art was when I was little, drawing cartoon characters, comics, and diagrams in school assignments and class work.
When did you discover surrealism was the niche for you?
I explored surrealism in 2021 to express myself, which was later seen in my works in 2022. As an artist who has always focused on human expressions, feelings, emotions, and psychology, it was a means to quickly express how I feel and how the people around me feel through the use of emojis in place of human heads.
When asked why he feels people should feel art mentally and physically, even on a 2D, Prosper explains that art can be anything. The artist defines what art is as far as he can convince people that what he’s doing is art.
I think art is everything, and it should not just be seen or heard.
It should be felt both physically, emotionally, mentally, e.t.c. In some works, I made it possible to feel three dimensionalities of a subject even on a 2-dimensional surface.
He explains further that his new contemporary paintings are figurative and can be termed mannerist with tinges of expressionism.
“The stylized figures in my work show my use of the devices of elongation and exaggeration and the unique and iconic afro hairstyle, which is my way of celebrating and negotiating my African identity. My work sometimes involves research into ancient and modern symbolisms, which are helpful in how I frame my ideas. In traditional African art visual codes, the exaggeration of the head in comparison to other parts of the body is well known because it is the seat of wisdom and intellectual prowess.
In antithesis, I paint my figures with smaller heads to cite the critical fabulation foisted on Africans as not being at par in the scheme of things globally. This narrative cast Africans as diminutive in many ways, including aspects we have an advantage”, he says.
He borrowed from the ancient Peru Indian’s the practice of shrinking enemies’ heads. They believed that the shrunken heads ritually harness victims’ spirits and awareness, thereby stopping them from attempting any form of vengeance. He likens this to the psychological violence and systemic degradation suffered by Africans due to colonialism.
His work seeks not only to rehearse the negative stories of the colonial encounter or the postcolonial crisis. Equally, it looks beyond the damages of the colonial experience in Africa by painting luscious images of the African people resplendent with beautiful apparel and striking pieces of diadem.
These diadems represent the great potential of Africa, which will one day unravel fully. Emojis are symbols of contemporary society used in social media, which have been appropriated as standardized images of human emotions helping us to communicate in a globalized world. We live in a global village with marked trajectories of communication to unite people despite differences in our cultures.
Why do your works center on Afrocentrism and pan-Africanism?
As an artist who centers on Afro centrism, I want to reflect and show traditional African values, things that define us, and things that are unique to us. My Pan-Africanist motive is just to unite us through shared goals, interests, and values.
When asked about the symbol of Afro Hair in his works, Prosper explains that the nature of the African hair is another defining factor of the race. Having thick curly black hair is referred to as afro hair. His paintings only make them so visible and significant as it is a defining factor of our race.
The fact that he’s a Nigerian affects his art and the kind of things he creates but is not specific to his exact location because he’s an artist that frequently moves around. Proper has created art in several states he visited within Nigeria, but it’s all about storytelling for him. Any location he’s in can provide an experience that motivates him enough to want to paint about it.
Have you minted any NFTs yet? And was venturing into NFTs what you hoped it would be?
I wanted to establish something new and unique and globally recognized before I would put a lot of energy into NFTs, but I have created NFTs before just to get a bit familiar with them.
Concerning his works, he says he doesn’t have a favorite piece, and Fineart America is just another means of digital marketing he explored to monetize his art. It has not been as effective as he expected.
We asked about the reception towards his work. If it’s been what he expected so far, and Aluu Prosper says he is an “Oliver Twist,” always wanting more and never satisfied because he believes there’s more that could happen, and that’s the theme/Title of his latest series. (Oliver Twist)
What structures, rules, or systems would you love to see in place for people who create art like you to help one thrive better?
Yes! They need opportunities, platforms, and every means possible to express themselves. Sometimes bringing an idea to life is limited by material availability, and platforms like this, which you have made available for me, need to be available. I grew up in a place where people didn’t value art that much, where an artist's efforts aren’t regarded as necessary and valuable. I struggled to grow creatively and artistically in this part of the world. It was hard for people from poor homes to become successful in the art world. A lot of creativity hides in the “ghetto.” No sponsorship, loans, grants, platforms, e.t.c
What’s your motivation? Why do you create?
I love it. I am made/born that way. I was allowed to be immortal, and I took it. I want to express myself and tell my story and the story of people around me in whatever way I can.
Why are heads represented with emojis in some of your works?
The surrealist use of emojis in my paintings, as opposed to the actual human head, is a
contemporary means that I developed to explain the recent kind of human conversations
where people symbolize themselves online as emojis and use them as a form of expression. In the present world, there are uses of emojis’s in conversations, where you find people using just emojis to communicate and express feelings.
There is almost an emoji for every kind of expression. It is quite the simplest form of human expression that’s been devised, which has been used for over a decade and became reformed over time.
As an artist who has always focused on human expressions, feelings, emotions, and psychology, it was a way to quickly express how I feel and the people around me feel. Sometimes a disguise to hide the actual feeling. It’s a surrealistic and mannerist style of art that describes human relationships and everyday interactions.
In some paintings, I use the emoji not just to express but to distinguish one set from another, just like used in mathematics; subsets in a universal Venn diagram set. Most times to differentiate the active from the passive, those who just express about change and those who enforce change.
Finally, Aluu Prosper believes beauty is relative to the viewer. Anything or feature that makes something or someone attractive and pleasurable. It contributes significantly to aesthetics. No matter what form it comes in, it is relative to the viewers and how the viewer perceives it.
Everyone has different tastes. But there is no certainty as regards forms of beauty, just theories and ideas, and some say there are a three, some say there are a seven just as seen in Cooper Hewitt’s categories.