Tife sounds like an evil magician. When he picked up my call he greeted me in his signature ever-smooth-operator cadence, that does little to hide undertones of gleeful mischief.
A cadence that alludes to the mystifying charm of his recent and first ever exhibit, with pieces that captivated my imagination and urged me to hit him up and ask for an interview.
It would be a month before I could get him still over a phone call.
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 did just that.
But before we get into the excruciatingly fascinating details of what inspired his first exhibit, we discuss his day job – an in-house videographer for a football academy. He had just been editing some footage of the players, something to market the academy and encourage parents wanting proof of money well-spent.
I had known him from my first year of university, his presence, on the rare occasion added something tranquil to the environment. Back then, I didn’t know he was a videographer and upon hearing about his day-job I was impressed at yet another African Millennial being outrageously multi-talented.
*scoffs in preteniousness*
The conversation quickly turned to the inspirations that pushed him to take what he would call a brave and delirious step into the outside world as an artist. 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 sat, listening intently to this surreal tale feeling that same familiar pang of ‘nostalgic’ sadness any time I hear about the thinning out of African 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, capitalist swine.
Africans are becoming increasingly politically and culturally aware. Proof of this can be found in how the youth are beginning to reclaim our culture.
Forging our lives from the ashes of history.
This exhibit IS a political statement; and it proclaims the pain of the past. It’s voicing vivid and timely. An exhibition, sure to outlive you, me and him.
Tife described his virgin experience as a daunting: the anxiety of putting out your work for the eyes of the ever-judging masses, for the very first time. As they say in my country, no be small fear he dey come conquor.
For your ease, the exhibit was well-received.
“We as artists want our work to live larger than us”, Tife noted 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.