BEHIND THE ARTIST

Hey guys,

Yea I know, once again I missed a couple of entries, but let me tell you, that job search life was no joke!!But I am happy to report the big search is over and in a couple of months I will be starting a new journey and a new career. I am pretty excited about 2017, that’s for sure.

So about what we are going to be talking about today, a good friend of mine said this to me “Aby, when I scroll through your social media, yes I see your art and its great and all, but..I don’t see you, how are people supposed to connect with your art, if you don’t allow them to connect with you?”

I really never thought about it, but that got me thinking, and well I guess she is right!so today I figure I’d introduce myself and share a few things you might or might not know about me, and see how that goes!:)

Hi all, my name is Abiola, I go by Abi (Aby on paintings) and I am a visual artist…among a whole lot of other things!

I am Italian. I was born and raised in Parma ( the land or prosciutto and Parmesan cheese, for lack of better references). Italian is my first language simultaneously as English, but being my parents Nigerians I also understand one of their languages, which is Yoruba, I went to a scientific high school and I wanted to be a pediatrician.

I was a professional basketball player. After coming to Texas in 2002 with the intention of playing college ball, life was kind enough to grant me my wish. I played at Baylor, won a national championship and kept the ball rolling ( ah!! unintentional pun) by playing in Europe: Israel, Hungary, Spain, Italy and England. This went on right up until last March when my body kindly( or not!) let me know it was time to retire and move on to other life activities because well…my knees had enough, and I had no choice but to listen.

I like to learn. While playing in Israel I enrolled in an Ulpan class, that’s where Jewish people who are going through the process of aliyah usually go to learn Hebrew…I just had time to spare! While in England I went to grad school to get a master degree in International business management, but just in case that didn’t turn out to be a successful choice, I also took the LSAT and got accepted into law school as a backup plan. I was totally ready to sacrifice three more years of “adulting” to get what I wanted, but as you’ll have it, the master was enough for me to get what I actually wanted!

Languages. And cultures might be my most favorite thing ever in life  right along art! I speak Español, Italiano, English and I can get away with Hebrew (עברית)  and Yoruba. I also recently find out I can hold a whole convo in Portuguese by responding with the few words I do know and a mix of Spanish and English, lol but I do need to learn Brazilian Portuguese to a proficient level soon!

Shy. I am a very shy person, might not always translate as shyness but I promise I am not mean!lol  Being an artist was the easiest way for me to communicate with people without really having to say much, that was the case until I started taking part in art shows and painting live. It’s a work in progress and can be a bit scary at times, but I am getting better, especially in the “talking in front of a crowd” category.

Well, that’s it for now….I would hate to give too much away!:)

But will love it if you had anything you’d like to know and asked!!!

Ciao for now,

Be Art,

Aby

 

 

Nigerian…or not!

Hi guys! ready for the weekend? I am just really happy the weather is changing and going outside feels a whole less deadly than usual in these Houston streets.

So last week I wrote about the “joys” of being Italian, and the oh so silly questions and remarks that came with it. Well today, I am taking the “where are you from” rhetoric to Nigeria.

So, my parents are from there, and every summer as a kid we would go on vacation to Lagos, and hang with cousins and other family members, which is something I have always really enjoyed.

Just so happened that the older I got the least enjoyable people interactions became over time. Apparently being Nigerian but technically being Italian is something worth of ridicule or discussion. Oyinbo (which means white) was often time my nickname, oh the irony, I mean can a girl just live and actually belong somewhere??

So here is a list of the top 5 awesome Nigerian minds at work when talking to me or even better about me.

1.”My sistah what did you bring for me”: said every airport clerk as soon as I pulled out my Italian passport. Apparently being born elsewhere makes for some sort of innate wealth and generosity towards strangers. Boy, were they wrong on both accounts.

2.You don’t look Nigerian…so apparently being all the shades of chocolate put together isn’t a good enougI attribute to “looking Nigerian”, shows you what I know.

3.”You sound like the black people from the movies”…lol that actually cracked me up because it was my grandma’s way of telling me that she didn’t understand my Americanized accent! ( but how cute is she though?!)gma

4.”Obirin abi okurin ni elei” (spell check required) that is Yoruba for “is that a girl or a boy?” So this one is a double hitter; 1st they just really assumed that I did not speak and or at the very least understood Yoruba ( see point 2 to why that happened), then apparently being that I am an athletic, muscular 6 footer, I did not fit the aesthetic of the 5’5′ curvilishious average Nigerian girl, which of course meant my gender had to be questioned (really??!) –OKAY OKAY I am a lot bigger than everyone else (pictured proof) but COME ON!!!egiant

5. An unsolicited warning of the spiciness of every traditional dish. I get it, I eat pasta…A LOT…but sheesh give my taste buds some credit, if I want pepper soup, I am pretty sure I am aware of the meaning of the word pepper.

I got to say, I love it when I land in Lagos, and smell the tropical air, see the chaos, and feel the heat;

but that love turns into sheer annoyance pretty much a week later. I guess is a love hate relationship meant to go on only on yearly cycles of no longer than 10 days, that gives me time to get as “Nigerian” as possible in between trips. (I am joking!)

Ciao for now!

be art,

Aby

italy1

“I am Italian”…”No way?!”

Hey there guys!!

Hope your week has been a good one, and you are ready for the finally oh so close weekend. So today, I wanted to share with you all how fun (insert a big bowl of sarcasm) it was growing up in Italy as a black kid.

Let me give you a little background on Italy: it is one of the few countries (that I am aware of) that recognizes immediate citizenship exclusively by blood (Ius sanguinis) meaning that me being born there by Nigerian parents, I was not considered Italian by birth. At the age of 18 I would have had the option of choosing if I wanted the nationality of a country I never even lived in, or if I wanted to be Italian. Luckily for me, turned out that I was somewhat of a decent basketball player so I ended up getting my citizenship sooner to be able to play for the National Team, how ironic.(can you find me??lol ha!)

it2

Anyways, if I sat here and typed all the ways living in Italy was the most tiresome to the soul experience, I would literally have to write the sequel to the sequel to “The Never Ending Story”. So instead I will share with you the top 10 stupidest human interactions/questions “real” Italian felt entitled to asking. Hold on to your seats because it gets dumb!

1.So where are you from? No I mean where are you really from?

Needless to say, I truly despised that question, as if being born here was my choice. I am from Parma never seemed to be enough of an answer, the biological explanation to my darkness always had to be given, but they rarely got it.

2. Wow!! you speak so well, how come you don’t have an accent?

If you know me, you would also know I have a very low tolerance for annoyance and stupidity, so this question actually rarely got a response other than an eye roll and an 180-degree turn away from whoever asked it.

3. Is it really hot where you come from?

My usual response to this was to cross the street and yell out “yup!! Same temperature over here too!” and kept it moving very nonchalantly.

4. (while at the beach) beautiful water isn’t it? do you have it where you are from?

They get the same exact response as the above, I would swim (ok more like dog paddle) a few feet over, and just yell “SI!!”

5. Does your hair get wet?? (which was the dumbest question that consistently arose after I had just come up from diving in the water”

Does a fist to the face hurt? seemed like the logical response to that.

6. Do you know him/her? ( while pointing at some random African person.)

See at this point you would think I would be out of answers, but instead, I would just point to the next random Italian and say oh look is that your mom?

7. Hey HEY how much??

(BACKGROUND: Italy has a very high rate of prostitution, and yes many prostitutes are black women, just as many are white eastern European or Brazilian. However, a lot of Italian men feel as though being black and woman is the obvious combination for sexual solicitations…WRONG)

HA…so the actual response to this very rude and degrading question would require way too many of these $%##@ so I’ll let you figure that one out.

8. Do you have a tiger in the back of your hut in Africa?

I never knew if I should let them know tigers do not live in Africa but in Asia, or that Nigerians for the most part( hey some people are country out there too trailer/hut same difference) live in homes.

9.Can I touch your skin (if they even bother asking)

Can I punch you in the face? ( seems straight to the point)

10. Whats your name? Abiola. Fabiola??(an Italian name). NO ABIOLA (Nigerian name= born in grace)…I KNOW how to say my name.

P.S MENTION: Of course the “nigger” “monkey” and “go back where you came from” (my mother’s womb you mean???) were always ready waiting for me to received them.

Well guys, this was just the tip of the iceberg but you get the gist of it!!!Love the country and the friends I left there don’t get me wrong, I miss my morning croissant and cappuccino daily, but those things, I very gladly left behind me. “everywhere I go they ask me where I am from” and if I have a choice in the matter then I chose to actually be a foreigner wherever I reside!

Ciao for now,

be art,

Aby

 

 

 

What a wonder!

Well, check me out being back on time!!

Today I’ll have a flashback Friday! One of my favorite human interactions ever in life happened to me in Petra, Jordan.

Two Christmases ago, some friends of mine and myself took a trip to Israel. That was about the 6th time going back for me but what can I say I really enjoy that place and made some great friendship during my years playing basketball there (that means no Hotel fees people!!!).

Well, this time around we decided to go on an adventure. One of my favorite humans on earth (arguably my best friend, we just don’t call each other that…you know, we are too “cool” for the mushy stuff) had the terrible idea of going to Petra without me, and that was not going to go down!!

So you guessed it, while in Israel this travel crew took the smiles to Petra.

 

Where can I start with this one? It was HUH-MAZING, truthfully an “awe” moment. As soon as that giant door carved in stone faces you (see the face?!lol) you are just taken over by this majestic view.

 

But let me start from the beginning!Once we left the Israeli border behind and after going through a very rigolous passport check, a driver from Jordan took over the second half of our trip to Petra.

When we finally arrive at our destination, we are presented with a couple of options. We were in the middle of the desert and surrounded by mountains that resembled the grand canyon (not that I ever saw it in person, but you know the internet helps) and the two option were: trek to the door (about 1-hour walk) or ride a horse. I, of course, thought the horse Idea would have been great until one of the Bedouin guides said “You fall not my problem”…why I’ll be, let me tie up this shoes a little tighter for this walk.

On the way, we met this really cool guy from Australia who was on a solo trip, and pretty much became our new best friend for the day, we were so close… I don’t remember his name lol but he was fun to talk to! My hair was a hit with the locals (I had giant Marley twists in at the time) and someone tried to sell us a mini tube of Pringles for $5 (insert side eye)

The walk, as it turns out was not as arduous as I expected it to be, the sun was out but the air was cool which definitely made it a lot more bareble. Between all the historical sights on the way, and the guide telling us about how these mountains formed through water erosion and the, of course, obligatory selfies before we knew it, we had arrived.

Right there around the corner comes the majestic door of Petra. It was absolutely breathtaking, I got to say the Transformers movie did it no justice (duh?!).

So the whole area used to be home to the locals. They  lived in the caves all around the mountains but somehow came to an agreement with the government to move to the outer areas, while still being able to come back and vend to tourists.

Well, this is where I met my little Bedouin friend and had my favorite human interaction of the day.

This little boy didn’t speak any English, but learned all the essentials” Hello! What’s your name?  Buy this! Give me money!”Let’s just say we got stuck on the “give me money” part of his vocabulary.  That had to be the most hilarious 15 minutes ever. I only had Shekels (Israeli currency) on me so I took out the coins I had and handed them to him, yeaaaa he didn’t quite appreciate that: “NO, give me Dollah”. At that point, I just started cracking up really. I truthfully didn’t have any on me and what I was handing was all I had, he followed me around while I was being an exploring tourist and pretty much just hung on the back of my jacket.

 

He was so cute It didn’t bother me one bit, but just had me smiling and laughing at his persistency, he knew he was safe and the Bedouins in the area were (see pirates of the carribean looking guys below) , of course, looking out for the little one. But at one point, I could tell he was just truly enjoying our little interaction, perhaps because he was so used to just being shushed away by most tourists.

The way I see it I was in his home, so the least I could do was to engage and not ignore him, plus I’m a sucker for kids!!

 

Until next time,

Be art

Aby

 

Stereotypes…let’s not!

Let me begin by saying that I am a week behind on the postings, in my defense, my solo show was AH-MAZING and took a lot of my time away from me! but I’m back and I hope you missed my rants!

So I have been living in America for a while now, well Houston specifically and let me begin by saying that thus far I really like it. I could do without the random torrential rains and devilish temperatures, but nothing some A/C and staying indoors can’t fix.

Anyways, before coming to this country I was not aware of the fact that I couldn’t swim… not because I simply couldn’t swim.

Stereotypes are a big thing on this side of the water, don’t get me wrong we have them in Italy too, but they are mainly based on cultural differences, southerners are friendlier than northern Italians, Romans are loud, people from Milan are bougie so on and so forth. But whatever part of Italy….we ALL love watermelon. The stereotypes I have been familiar with my whole life never involved abilities and or palate or perhaps I just didn’t really paid enough attention to them to notice their existence.

Fast forward to my beginning years in America, I remember expressing my love for watermelon to someone and their response being ” you’re so black”….hummm HUH??? I was a bit lost but ok. Then I was told I or rather “we” do not swim ( Ok I most definitely cannot float, something to do with an above average bone density…lol ) but hmm I like being in the water, I like NOT looking like Phelps, and I love dunking my head in the water. Scuba diving with dolphins, parasailing or jumping off Rick’s Cafè cliff were some of the things I cannot wait to do all over again!

 

I can’t stand cool aid, or any drink that tastes like my pancreas should fail soon after and for the first few years in Texas, I used to take the skin off of fried chicken. Being black, Asian, white,  Hispanic or Native should not automatically add, or rather remove attributes from your persona.

If every black child is told we don’t swim how are we supposed to have more black swimmers in the Olympics?( Guess France didn’t get the memo) I don’t know but I would find it pleasurable to break every single stereotype I could break if it involved my abilities, wouldn’t you?

What stereotype do you absolutely abhor?

EDIT: As I tune in the Olympics I see Simone Manuel winning the Gold!!!!!!!!

Ciao for now!

Be Art,

Aby

 

 

 

 

 

AND THE AWARDS GOES TO?

Before coming to America ( btw I saw the movie on tv last night and it will forever be hilarious) I thought the prom was only real on Sweet Valley High or Saved by the Bell ( if you don’t know what they are you are too young to be online!) It wasn’t until I came here that I realized in America you celebrate practically EVERY achievement.

While waiting for my master’s dissertation results I worked at an interpretation company. My second active month on the job I received a certificate of appreciation….for being on time “WTH????” it’s what I was thinking while the lady that handed it  to me had the biggest smile on her face. Isn’t being on time to work what any responsible adult is supposed to do?I personally found the certificate somewhat insulting and condescending, but then I took a glimpse at other cubicles and others that were awarded the same recognition , proudly hung it on their cubes. (mine never left my drawer and has since been discarded). Looks like I was alone with this one.

What’s with the need of fake accomplishments? My last year of high school, during my last day of our exit exam ( it’s a three-day test, plus an oral examination where our thesis is presented) my mom called me, asking me for my whereabouts, as if my exam was not that big of a deal for her to remember that it was in process. Well it really wasn’t, not graduating high school was never an option and graduating was a given, nothing to be praised about but something completely expected.

I guess because of my Italian/ Nigerian  experience of the uncelebrated  importance attached to graduating I just really have a hard time understanding  participation certificates. I love seeing pictures of little munchkins ( all children are munchkins to me) graduating 1st grade, pre-k etc…but is it really an achievement? graduating kinder garden? what does that even mean? Best at taking naps? Ate the cookies and not the Crayons?Honestly if it so easy to be praised why would anyone even strive or try to actually do something worth of recognition? I might be too cynical on this one, but I stand by it: when things are given easily they lose value.  It can’t possibly feel good to obtain something simply for being there. I don’t know I would love to hear your opinions on this. Am I missing something?

 

Ciao for now,

Be art,

Aby

 

NOT SURE WHAT YET, BUT SOMETHING NEW IT IS.

So last week I left my job as an over the phone, in office interpreter. It just wasn’t for me or I wasn’t for it, either way, it was time to part ways.

Let’s just say I knew I wouldn’t last long when they tried to convince me that a three walls, no ceiling cubical could be sound proof…like huh??HOW??? – cue in-laws of sound-

Anyways transitioning from being an athlete all my life to what we* call “regular” life has been a real challenge. The thing is, as scared as I am of failing and not finding my path, I am more scared of getting complacent and settle with whatever comes my way.

To keep my self-motivated, and my dreams in sight, every few years a friend of mine and I make our vision boards, and I must say there is nothing better than visualizing your ideas and updating them once you’ve reached some of those goals. (New board due soon!)

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I think at times it’s easy to get lost in the magazines while looking at what to cut and paste in order to create the future of your dreams. Heck if I see a Roll Royce ( I know nothing about cars, but I know enough to know that it’s expensive) I might cut it up and put it on my board, but is it REALLY what I want??

I decided that before even opening the magazines for inspiration I should write down what my expectations of myself are, and break them down into different categories.  I am in a transitioning stage, of which I want to exit as an accomplished entrepreneur and create the life I want with the tools I have.  I think of the vision board as a business model canvas, and in the same manner,  we describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot our business model (life).

Just knowing that a big part of  my last board’s  visions came to life, is a boost of confidence in the right direction, and boy is it needed! Because of this, I want to share my process with you all with this ” Before you get to the glue” mini guide free for you to download.

I hope it will help you create the board of your dream (real) life.

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DOWNLOAD YOURS

*We: on any given day could refer to being a basketball player, an artist, African, Italian, Nigerian, an entrepreneur, polyglot.

The denied hand shake

Hello there!

So today I went to a networking event hosted by my alma mater. It was a great opportunity to mix and mingle and listen to successful business people shed some knowledge.
However, what caught my attention was something that happened and that left me wondering.

During the event I met an older black lady and the first thing I noticed after shaking her hand, was that she was not shaking hands with any man that presented theirs in greeting ( at that point my friend and I were the only women that had introduced themselves). I thought it was odd, but then from my experiences around the world with both jewish and muslim cultures I just assumed it had to do with some particular beliefs.

That idea went out the window when another older black man came to greet her and her arms magically unfolded as she shook his hand.

That threw me for a loop, it was now evident that she was selectively only engaging in physical contact ( hand shake) with the black folks in the room.

I’m not sure why but that made me somewhat uncomfortable.
When I saw the contempt ( lol I’ve been watching “Lie to me” guys) on the white guys’ face that had just tried to shake her hand, and got denied, witnessing the next guy getting his (black) hand shook (he physically leaned over to see if she would) I really felt his scorn.

Come to find out the lady, went to the University when it was barely integrated and she had to endure a lot in her time, which I can’t even to begin to imagine what was that like. ( YES I grew up in Italy, YES I was the ONLY black kid from elementary to High school, on my basketball team, in my church catechism class, at the pool..ok you get the point NO it was not segregated and YES I endured racist abusive acts READ HERE) , but ( and I might be very wrong here) should she be able to look past it due to her current success and due to the fact that she overcame such a hard stage of her life? The oxymoron to me, is that she was a psychologist and in my mind I imagined she would have been the best person to know how to “move past emotional issues” or at the very least know how to not take it out on the people that have not directly caused her past pain.

Of course I don’t know what in her life brought her to such a selective social behavior, and I can’t judge what I don’t know, and wouldn’t dream to do so, but just based on my life experiences ( the link you read was only ONE of many in my first 20 years of life in Italy) I could not imagine automatically exing out all white folks because of a selective few, and if that were the case I would simply not go to an event where I knew for a fact I would be a minority( but that’s me); matter of fact I would probably go just to be all up in everyone’s face lol ( I’m that annoying I know).

Today’s incident reminded me of a book I recently read ( I have mixed feelings about this read, but there were some point I could truly relate with) “Americanah” by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie who in one perfect paragraph clarified to me why this type of incident are so hard for me (and perhaps other non American blacks) to register and identify with.

You know I had my fair share of discrimination and racially fueled incidents that had me walking around as an angry little girl 90% of the day every day for 20 years…but guess what I left Italy and welp…I’ve never looked back. All that to say…could she have not come to the event if she had that much contempt for the crowd that was the majority there?Was her behavior excusable?

Please let me know your thought and weigh in on this one, I would like to hear your voices.

Ok guys my rant was long enough,

Ciao for now,
Be Art!

What’s Black Art??

As a black African woman ( yes there are non black Africans, see Moroccans, Egyptians, Mauritians and so on) and as an artist, or a human, I don’t like being boxed in a category and yet here I am trying to figure out the constant labeling.

Why is my art, along with the art of African American artists called “black art”? I never heard of a Monet, Lempika (I LOVE HER WORK!!!!) or Warhol being referred to as a “white artist”.
They are just artists.. and so am I!!!
( PSA. no I am not putting myself on their artistry level..for now 😉 )

But honestly, yes my art is VERY afrocentric, majority of my subjects are what I find  beautiful in my African culture. Strong beautiful black women are the center of what inspire my artistry..


but they are not the only and exclusive subjects…. so the label falls short already…

Tim Okamura and Sarah Golish, are  amazing Canadian artists that  create incredibly beautiful art that depicts black women, and yet neither of this artist is black. Should their art be called black art?

(by Sara Golish)                             (by Tim Okamura) 

I think racially based labelling is not necessary when it comes to visual arts. Art should be the ultimate form of HUMAN expression and appreciation. The most bigot, racist homophobic person could fall in love with a piece of art if “art” its the only way they know it as.

By giving the pieces a label, said bigot now knows that the piece of art was created by a black, hispanic gay or an atheist person and now I bet they would be ready to set that same exact piece of art on fire.

What do you think? am I reaching here?

I don’t know about other artists, but my desire is for everyone with an heart to feel touched in one way or the other by my art. I want the entire spectrum of the human being species to own a Art by Abiola piece if so they wished, without feeling ex’d out or not included as if my art weren’t for them also.

What do you think? do you feel black art should be labeled as such?

On my last trip to Nigeria I had the pleasure of visiting a lot of art galleries and enjoy the beautiful art displayed. All of the works were full of Nigerian culture” women carrying their baby wrap on their backs, man with tribal cuts on their faces etc etc and yet none of that work was at any point labeled Black. it was simply beautiful ART.

                   

Now, don’t get me wrong we are not having a Stacie Dash moment here, even though my heritage is not American and I am not a result of a slavery plagued family tree, I know whats its like to be excluded because of the color of my skin ( thank you Italy) and I understand the importance of having somewhere to feel like you belong,  you own a piece of it, you are not discriminated or you are not looked down upon I just wished art didn’t have to be one of them.

Let the piece speak for its self, more often than none the message is a 1,000 times stronger than the label anyways if you ask me.

ok I rambled far too long this time

Ciao for now,

Be art!
Aby

positive vibrations!

hi there!!!!
first let me just say, the title of this blog its in honor of the great late Bob Marley, whose birthday was a couple of days ago!!im a fan of his music and his peaceful message!
anyways…that was a side note! i have a few good things to share with you guys, of which i am very excited about! today it will be exclusively ART!
a few weeks ago i decided to participate to an online art contest “all women art exhibition” and out of the 310 entries i was awarded 3rd place!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yes i indeed was very exited about it!!!!:)
i received an Award Certificate,a little bit of press, and internet advertising space!!! things are definitely looking up!!!
here you can see the online exhibit, and what the competition looked like!!:)
http://www.lightspacetime.com/all-women-the-painting-category/
Not too long after this, i was contacted by the Full Circle Art Gallery & Studio,(1240 HWY 54 West/ suite 300, Fayeteville Georgia) and i was asked to participate in the art exhibit that will be held starting February 25th 6pm-10pm “Celebrating black history” here are the new pieces i made that will be exposed in the gallery until the end of March! if you are in the Atlanta area take the time to go and check it out, supprt me and support the arts!!!!!!:)
until next time!
Aby