Tife sounds like a magician. Legit, he sounds like a warlockWhen he picked up my call he greeted me in his signature nonchalant, sultry cadence. One that alludes to the hypnotic, mystifying charm of his recent and first ever exhibit. A show so captivating that I was so adamant about interviewing him that I bothered him for just under a month before we could sit down for an exchange over a phone call.
I had known from my first year of university, his presence, on the rare occasion I saw him, adding something tranquil to the environment.
Tife lives by the creed that an artist’s work should live beyond them. And there is no doubt in my mind that his first exhibit will do exactly just that.
But before we get into the excruciatingly fascinating details of what inspired his first exhibit, we discuss is day job, which he was actually at, he is an in-house videographer for a football academy. He had just been editing some footage of the players, something to market the academy and something to encourage parents wanting proof of money well-spent.
The conversation then turns to the inspirations that pushed him to take what he would call a brave step into the outside world as an artist, ready to be devoured by the public. He described the experience as a daunting and foreboding experience: the anxiety of putting out your work for the eyes of the ever judging masses, for the very first time. A feeling I am all too familiar with.
“We as artists want our work to live larger than us”, Tife notes philosophically.
This is something that can be gleamed from his first exhibit. There is no doubt that his work will far out live his physical body.
For the nitty gritty details direct from the horse’s mouth, you can find Tife’s own words on this artistic expedition here. But as he shares some with me, he mentions one of the pivotal muses for the exhibit, the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria, a discovery he made at a local shrine on a trip to Cuba. A religion which his great grandfathers had practiced (just to give you some perspective).
This served as a catalyst to push him to explore the nuances of religion and what this entails particularly for the black west African identity, which strongly holds on to Christianity, something we both agree was a colonial tool of oppression. An identity which, we agreed, looks down on the profession of the artist, a narrative which he boldly stands against.
The visit encouraged him to explore how the “old gods” had been pushed out by more Abrahamic religions, a form of oppression enforced white and Islamic colonialists.
I sit listening intently to this surreal tale feeling that same familiar pang of nostalgic sadness any time I hear about the thinning out of Afro-culture by foreign invaders. If the religion of Santeria could flourish and be celebrated, doors across the South Atlantic Ocean
may have opened between the African and South American continent ushering unparalleled economic, cultural and political collaboration. Yet, these doors have been barricaded and cordoned off thanks to your friendly-neighborhood neoliberal.
You may think that my political rambling serves no purpose, but it is a much needed footnote in the story of Tife’s first exhibit.
Africans are becoming increasingly politically and culturally aware, we, the youth are beginning to retell our stories of yore, forging our lives in the flames of culture and heritage. Igniting a socio-political awareness that allows our people shine bright with the knowledge of the past and as beacons of the future.
This exhibit IS a political statement; and it proclaims the pain of the past, painting an acoustic depiction on the walls of time, sure to outlive you, me and him.