Nwaka Okparaeke is a London based 19 year-old photographer, creative director and stylist. We met at her one-day exhibition ‘A Product of Solitude’ at the Camden Image Gallery in London on January 5th 2017.
Wildabout: Can you tell us about your art?
Nwaka: My art is very expressive of my emotions because I feel that anything to do with the mind is super complex. I feel that words aren’t really enough to describe them or that I’m not very good at expressing my emotions through words anyway. So I think the best way to do that is through my images and I learnt that through just taking images with no concepts or whatever just for the fun of it, and people would respond to me and say, “Oh what’s the concept behind this it’s so emotional or so romantic; or this one reminds me of this experience I went through that was really painful.” I thought this was really interesting because at that point I wouldn’t describe myself as an emotional person at all. Through my work I realised that I really was [emotional] but my emotions were not simply sad or happy, they were so complex to the point that I didn’t even realise they were there. My photography is just a reflection of everything that I’m feeling, vibes, energy… And I express that through colour, just subconsciously.
Wildabout: Why did you name your exhibition ‘A Product of Solitude’?
Nwaka: Because the way I am now, most comfortable alone, awkward, and I enjoy living in my thoughts. It’s a product of having a very lonely life when growing up.
Wildabout: How do you think your gaze has changed?
Nwaka: I think that now the more I reflect on myself the more I have a better self-understanding and open my mind to new questions. And I think those questions are really what drives the concepts for my photography now. After reflecting from my old photography where I didn’t use to have concepts I realised that the more I think about myself… and grow, the more I have concepts to work with.
Wildabout: Who’s your audience?
Nwaka: I don’t know if I have an audience it seems like mainly people of colour and people of minority background tend to resonate with my work the most. At my exhibition most people there were black and I don’t know why that is but it just seems to be the case or people who are really accepting of other cultures and other beliefs tend to like my work. I don’t know what the reason behind that is but I guess I am like that so the energy goes into the work and other people feel that.
“Through my work I realised that I really was [emotional] but my emotions were not simply sad or happy, they were so complex to the point that I didn’t even realise they were there.”
Wildabout: What would you imagine yourself saying to your younger self? You just opened an exhibition, did you imagine yourself doing that?
Nwaka: When I was really young I always had this idea that by the time your 20, you’re old and you’re married and you have a house and kids and a job. Obviously when I got older I realised that that’s not really the case for the majority of people but the idea of having my dream job at 20 always stuck with me for some reason. I’m 19, turning 20 soon, but I feel like I’ve made it happen, because it’s been in my head I had to make it happen. If I was to say anything to my younger self it would be just to reflect and embrace. Really really embrace because I feel like I neglected so much about myself. I didn’t fit in, I really disliked that about myself so I covered that up and tried to hide that I didn’t like myself. Eventually after reflecting… I got over it and now I’m here.
Follow Nwaka’s work: @by_nwaka
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