When Life Gives You Oranges: chat+video w artist Uzo Njoku by da-AL


Books + Art = Happiness

Dear readers, that’s why, when I learned of Uzo Njoku through Bust Magazine (a lifestyle/feminist publication started in 1993), I thought of you. Many of you are novelists like me, most of you writers and creatives, and lovers of books.

"When Things Fall Apart," by Uzo Njoku: "My favorite book by Chinua Achebe."
“When Things Fall Apart,” by Uzo Njoku: “My favorite book by Chinua Achebe.”

Her self-published coloring book, “The Bluestocking Society,” launched the statistics-turned-art-major a couple of years ago when she was a 22-year-old college student. It’s filled with images and facts about all sorts of wonderful women throughout history. She also offers free printable coloring pages.

Uzo moved from Lagos, Nigeria, to the United States as a child. Here’s a writeup about her by the University of Virginia, and here’s another by their news magazine.

"When Life Gives You Oranges" by Uzo Njoku: "I created this when dancing the idea of me being an orange farmer if I was not an artist."
“When Life Gives You Oranges” by Uzo Njoku: “I created this when dancing the idea of me being an orange farmer if I was not an artist.”

Along with Uzo’s comments on these paintings, what follows are the answers she kindly emailed back to me…

Question: How does being bi-cultural play out in your day-to-day life and influence your art? And in terms of how you regard your own loveliness and potential?

Answer: Being in the middle of two worlds gives me more content to work with. My work addresses important issues such as identity, duality and spirituality, yet is approached with a particular openness snd beauty. The themes addressed in my work stem directly from my life experience as a female artist living and working between cultures, and yet the aim is to show how a single person’s ‘double vision’ can produce images that possess much wider social effects by collapsing racial and cultural borders.

"Stretch," by Uzo Njoku: "Exploring the limitations of the body with a simple leg stretch image against the stark contrast of a flower pattern."
“Stretch,” by Uzo Njoku: “Exploring the limitations of the body with a simple leg stretch image against the stark contrast of a flower pattern.”

Question: Many of my readers (myself included) are struggling creatives. How do you juggle making art, marketing, fulfilling orders, and attending university? How did you initially let people know about your amazing coloring book? How do you continue to expose people to your art?

Answer: Everything I have done starts from my friends supporting me. Constantly telling others about my work and word-of-mouth helping to spread the news. A lot of artists don’t have a business mindset, and I believe that is how a lot of them do get exploited initially. I took an arts administration class in college, and that really opened my eyes to what goes on behind the scenes. This helped me understand more what it takes for shows to happen and the right people to reach out to.

I studied Statistics in college before switching over to art, so by nature, I am a very technical person. I see numbers alongside art a lot and understood when it was time to pay a marketing personnel to run ads when I released a new product on my website. I don’t really know exactly what to advise people because everyone is different, but I learned everything from Google and YouTube videos. So a lot of research.

"Strangers," by Uzo Njoku: "I had a conversation at a bar with a man who essentially told me everything going on in my life, and then I went about my normal life the next day because we were still just strangers even though he told me everything."
“Strangers,” by Uzo Njoku: “I had a conversation at a bar with a man who essentially told me everything going on in my life, and then I went about my normal life the next day because we were still just strangers even though he told me everything.”

Question: How has the horrific politics of late as well as the pandemic affected you and your work?

Answer: I am not a social artist, so I do not create art based on political events. But in regards to Oluwatoyin passing away, I feel it was my duty to beautify her image because I know a lot of media outlets would try to show her in a negative light. A good amount of the sales during this period I have been able to donate out to small BLM groups and artists struggling during this pandemic.

Artist Uzo Njoku in her studio.
Uzo Njoku in her art studio.

Question: How do you find and choose your marketing personnel?

Answer: My marketing personnel reached out to me. He had been following me for years and felt that he could reach new customers for me. Basically, anyone who understands how to market on Social Media is an asset.

Question: What are one or more mistakes you see artists making business-wise most often?

Answer: I would say the biggest mistake is forgetting to follow up on business taxes when tax season comes by. It can bite you if you’re not careful. Also, you need to get into the habit of having a second pair of eyes look at contracts with you, whether they are those of a family member, a friend, or a professional.

Dear reader, if you didn’t do what you do now, what would farm oranges…or what?…

Guest Blog Post: “Lucky’s Amazing Story: What Has Lucky Done And Has Been Doing To Deserve A Place In Our House And In Our Hearts?” in the exact words of Oriyomi Isaac


Photo of a mixed breed brown and white dog lying down on a matt.
Lucky lives in Lagos, Nigeria. His family takes good care of him.

How do dogs get along in Nigeria? Blogger Oriyomi Isaac explains his site: “I live in the most historical part (Lagos) of Nigeria. I want people to know about things that happen in my own part of the world.”

Stories and Football

Not Hostile

Unlike his predecessors, Lucky is not hostile. He tends to recognise a person when such person calls his name; kids in the neighbourhood often play with him and he does not bark unnecessarily.

Watchful

Only God can watch over people but sometimes He could use a living thing. Lucky is always mild during the day and active by night. There were times when people broke into our shop which is front of our house and stole things, but Lucky would always bark at night anytime he sees someone approaching, so, we are always alerted.

Sometimes, I do wake up in the middle of the night to see if Lucky is getting himself a rest but he has never been asleep.

There was a time we thought about getting Lucky a companion. We actually did. My mother bought a little white male dog for him. One night, Lucky was…

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Guest Blog Post: “Give a Donation,” in bowaleXO’s exact words


Blogger bowaleXO
Blogger bowaleXO

Hang on — surely you’re wrong about why I’m posting bowaleXO’s request. Read on, then visit the Nigerian blogger’s thoughtful site. Only then, comment below about what you think when bloggers request financial support from readers …

bowaleXO

So I realised blogging is not cheap even with a free wordpress.com website. Thought producing original content may be a free gift from God, but it still requires Internet to be edited and posted online.

Like most African countries Internet Service in Nigeria is expensive, and when you manged to afford it you don’t get face value of what you are purchasing. I started bowalexo.wordpress.com two (2) months ago and because I always want to create new and original contents for the readers of bowalexo.wordpress.com I am always online and as a result of that I have spent in two (2) months what I would have spent within six (6) month on purchasing Internet Service

I recently found my ability and desire to write when I lost my job two (2) and half months ago and I have been using my saving to fund bowalexo.wordpress.com ever since and I fear…

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Guest Blog Post: “Why do I write?” in Akintunde Akinsola’s exact words


Why do you write? For me, within weeks of learning to hold an oversized pencil, I was using printed words to make sense of my six-year-old world. Akintunde Akinsola proudly teaches in SW Nigeria. His blog esteems and supports teachers, as well as highlights his photography …

Why Do I Write written into a notebook

TeachMe

Why do I write…? Thinking about this question, I believe I write because I want to express a part of myself which speech cannot fully portray. I love the prints. Reading comes easy. I am a man of few words. I love to listen and I love to read. I also believe writing is a lasting legacy of a man’s thought and ideas. It lives on long after he has passed on. Writing also to me is an embalming process. Preserving your thoughts for ages to come. I know my writing has the wings to travel far and reach more people than expressing my thoughts and ideas by speech which I do not want to force down on people but in a way helping to shape the world in a way I feel is right.

I am a teacher, a photographer. I love the arts. I love nature. I love…

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