January 28th, 2013, I was on board Delta airlines trying to return to the U.S. after spending my Christmas in Nigeria. A man was dying on the plane, announcements were made, doctors on board couldn’t save him. The plane had to make an emergency landing in Dakar, Senegal. After 3hours of waiting on the landed aircraft, my fear and panic were soon dissolved by a lovely room in a 5star hotel. The lush of its comfort, the buffet meals and that gorgeous view were not enough to keep me in the Hotel, I had to explore . I made a friend and off we were on a trip in search of Lac Rose. So beautiful it was, lovely warm breeze and a foamy ocean line, never in my life had I seen such a sight , a pink lake so saline that you could float in it. It was a wonderful experience but that was not the highlight of my adventure. On our way back, we got lost and made a stop in the village to ask for directions. The driver came out and shut the door. As he did, three little curious boys scurried to the window and peeked at us. So innocent , so inquisitive, the one in the middle squeezed in to get a view. I was so touched by them , I had to take a picture. They were dusty , walked on bare feet and lived in a little village by the lake. They wore torn clothes and played in the sand. But in their faces, I saw joy and contentment in their simple way of life. In many ways they impacted me. I thought about them all through my trip back , they were on my mind for so long that I had to paint them. They made me appreciate life and have gratitude for little things. This painting is titled “The Innocents”. For me it’s much more than a painting , it’s a symbol of all that these little African boys represent. That you may look at it and find meaning to it . It may speak to you in a different way than it does me. Children are the future of our world, hope and purity, they remind us of our humble beginnings and our origins. “The Innocents” is available at the Joyce Gordon Gallery Oakland, 406 14th Street, between telegraph and Broadway, downtown Oakland, for more information, please visit http://www.joycegordongallery.com and http://ninafabunmi.com
Capturing the heart of a man, the strength in his countenance, the bravery in his stance and the boldness of his glare. I looked into his eyes, the windows of his soul, It told a story. One of a life where he had endured much and still had much to face. I saw strength in him, a spirit so strong. I saw perseverance , hope and good fortune. Perhaps I am wrong, or even right. That doesn’t really matter , but as an artist, I find that in order to paint a portrait piece, there must be something deeper than what meets the eye. So I study my subjects and draw inferences from their facial expression, gestures and the way they carry themselves, I paint what I see. In him , I saw a ‘Brave Heart’.
I want my audience to be able to relate with this, knowing the struggles of life and the strength to go through it with a winning attitude. Despite all odds, we shall remain standing.
‘Brave Heart’, oil on canvas, 30″ x 30″ on sale at Joyce Gordon Gallery which is at …….
406 Fourteenth Street
Oakland, CA 94612
To the dark skinned woman of african decent, hair is always a big topic. How shall I wear my hair? a question that plays in our mind all the time. How shall I be perceived by society based on how I choose to wear my hair ? ,another thing to think about. I come from Nigeria, a place where westernized hairstyles are embraced in big cities like Lagos where I lived. I now live in San Francisco, here individuality and freedom of expression are accepted. In Nigeria, I worked in a bank where I was not allowed to put tints in my permed hair, which I wore in a neatly cropped ‘bob’ . I once wore my hair woven in a hairstyle called “Alicia Keys”, decorated in beads and ornaments. I was told to take the beads off. Ironic how this traditional look was inspired by an African American singer. If your hair was natural and woven or in an afro, forget it, no one would hire you. I worked in a Telecoms firm which felt like a house of fashion. Here I became obsessed with 100% human hair, Brazilian and Indian were the best textures. So soft and silky, I gladly had my natural hair subdued in tracks so that I could stitch my very expensive human hair unto it. I saw a movie called “The Eye” with Jessica Alba, she got an eye transplant and began to see the visions of the person whose eyes she wore. It was frightening to think of the identity of the persons whose hair I wore, what if I get possessed by her thoughts one day?
I got to San Francisco and had diverse roommates who never understood the African hair. Since I was skilled in hairdressing, I’d take out my weaves and replace them myself in my walk in closet because I never wanted to reveal my natural look to them. One day , I just got tired. I had my hair braided so that my scalp could finally breathe and when the braids got old, I took them out, one by one freeing up my natural hair.It was all natural now, I had cut off the perm and grown my hair in its own unique texture. It floated in space and bounced off my scalp, standing tall, full and fluffy. It was liberated atlast. Maria, my Mexican roommate looked at me puzzled, “whats wrong with your hair” she asked, “what do you mean whats wrong with it?”, I responded. “It’s standing”, she continued, still looking perplexed, “of course it’s standing, its supposed to stand, I am from Africa”, I responded, “Haven’t you seen Jackson 5”, I continued, showing her the picture I had of Jackson 5 on my wall to reaffirm that our hair is supposed to look like that. I didn’t blame her for being so shocked, after all I had been hiding under my Brazilian hair, woven all down my back, but then it also surprised me how ignorant some people from other parts of the world are about the African hair.
This painting Keahafro pays tribute to the African hair in a fro. It celebrates its texture, beauty and versatility. It shows pride and confidence in those who choose to wear it.
My hair is an extension of my individuality. I now have it in locks and no longer on lockdown. This is the best expression of me, artistic, real, natural and liberated.
Keahafro, oil on canvas, 30″ x 30″
is available for sale at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th Street, Downtown Oakland, CA, 94612
I tried to describe this piece but his words were better than mine, so I quote…
“Split Image is the portrait of a man drenched in the mesmerizing but indefinable contours of a convoluted identity. This is the portrait of a proud and defiant individual who comports himself with an audacity that is at once confounding and inviting. Fabunmi’s spirit soars in this painting, accented as it were by brush strokes that are suggestive of the privilege granted only to a few. He is Caucasian. Really? He is Black: a product of some form of miscegenation, the type that the African-American artist, Archibald Motley, loved to celebrate in his paintings. Or is her? He is Rastafarian. He is …Well, he could be Nina Fabunmi’s alter ego: a subconscious articulation of her notion of Black Diaspora. Fabunmi enunciates in this painting the pangs and agonies, the stoicism and determination, the pride and confidence, which are contingent on the assertion of selfhood and issues of identity.”
Art Historian, Art Critic, Art Administrator, Painter & Cartoonist.
‘Split Image’ won Best of the Show for Artist Portfolio Magazine Portraits Edition in 2014 and is published in Issue 15 & Issue 19 of the magazine.
Transition is very emotional. I think about all that I left behind to be here but what I have and what I hope to achieve, far outweighs it. I once walked on dusty streets without sidewalks and worried about the mosquitoes sucking blood from my children as they slept at night. How many times I had to patched those holes on the mosquitoes nets but they still found their way in. They even became immune to the insecticides that were supposed to eliminate them, they won the war and buzzed in our ears to remind us of their victory.
The heat due to lack of electricity, the wet pillows that we sought comfort from, drenched in our own midnight sweat. The next battle became the war against malaria.
My kitchen where I could not preserve my cooking, my food gone to rot, the refrigerator died due to power fluctuation. Rats crept under the metal door and continuously fed on our food storage competing with the cockroaches both big and small. I went to bed at night and lay beside a man I once called my husband, pretending to love him to avoid his fist yet thinking about the other man I once loved but could not be married to due to society’s disapproval. I craved for him silently accepting my loss and struggling to accept my lot.
I went to a job I had to, it frustrated me to be there but it provided for the family. I drove for one and a half hours through the madness of Lagos traffic to get there in the comfort of my four wheel drive,one of my proudest accomplishments. I remember the day I bought that SUV and tore the rubber off it, I sat in the drivers seat, clenching the steering wheel and sucking in the smell of my brand new ride. It saw me though that arduous journey to work, serenaded by the music of Celine Dione playing in my CD player. I worked hard to pay the bills, I frequently awoke at midnight to pursue the passion that kept me sane, I had to make art, I had to paint, I just kept painting. Sometimes, I’d stagger to work the next day still sleepy from the lack of sleep. Grateful for my cozy parking space and the cushioned seats in my jeep which became a haven to catch up on lost sleep. Leaving work, I would drop my managerial hat at the door and go home to continue in my role of mother and wife, one that sometimes gave me joy but also wore me out, I had to stay inspired, I had to keep on painting.
Staying true to my passion and holding on to my dreams, here I am now in San Francisco California. My art paved the way for me. I am walking on the sidewalks of tarred roads adorned with dog pup and pee, a sight I have gotten used to, never complaining due to my immigrant gratitude. Household pest and rodents now a thing of the past. There is electricity, I actually drink water from the tap, my food stays refrigerated and I only perspire when I go to the gym. The scars of the mosquito bites that once covered my children’s skin, now all faded away , drifting with the memories of the discomfort they once felt. I am painting to pay the bills now and I am working two jobs that I love. I read about my art in newspapers and magazines from authors I never knew. My paintings are being collected by art lovers whom I never had pervious affiliations with. I am constantly inspired to make art . I am motivated by this and yet another source…..
Emotional again with a heart full of thankfulness, I find myself loving again. I have taken a dive,I am deep in it, wearing my heart on my sleeves and shaking in my boots in the fear of a heartbreak. I constantly remember all that I have been through in the name of love. It has given me much happiness yet caused me so much sorrow that I gave up on it. So why am I doing this again. There are forces on earth that we cannot comprehend and this one is not on me. Greek mythology blames it on Cupid, I tend to agree. I am not in control, I got carried away by a weird winding wind that dropped me in his arms. It cast a spell on me and I am in a hypnotic state. I am in love but I am afraid. I am emotional.
He looks in the mirror but he sees not himself, he sees the man inside him, the one he struggles to hide, the one that he denies, he sees himself but he knows not who he is. He is a ‘Stranger’.
In search of identity, in search of truth. We often ask ourselves who we are. We think we know but we know not. Our curiosity leads us down an unwinding path of self discovery.
Stripped down to the bone and still searching for our identity. Who are we? where did we come from? why are we here.
Who is black and who is white and all the inbetweens? Why is racial classification so deep rooted in society.
If we all strip off the flesh that clothes our bones, then are we all not the same. Then who does that make us?
As a child , I remember watching those Brazillian festivals on TV. Their exotic, colorful and revealing costumes, well toned bodies, flashy and shiny make up and athletic performances that made their street festivals look so much fun. O! how I dream of Brazil. My parents travelled to Brazil and bought me this lovely spaghetti strapped dress. It had somany colors that it lit me up like a rainbow. I wore it till it became a skirt and I wore that skirt till it could fit me no more.
When I was twelve, I took part in the West Indies Festival in Lagos Nigeria. I was a Fire Bird, with a big bright orange head gear and fire feathers on my arms and my tails. We danced the streets, we showed off our colors, we wagged our tails as we made merry. I was having my own Brazillian Festival moment, one I would never forget.
Comming to America and learning so much more about the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, I have learnt that a lot of kidnapped Africans were taken to Brazil and enslaved there. The Brazillian culture has subsequently been highly influenced by Africans. The music, the dancing, the food, the dressing and so much more. No wonder I loved those Brazillian festivals so much.