Beans & Bread with Abasido Michael Akpan

Beans & Bread with Abasido Michael Akpan

I’m sorta kicking ass with this series, lol. If I do say so myself, well I’m so happy everyone. Having the chance to showcase these incredible artists is mindblowing, the incredible visuals these minds are creating, right here in Nigeria. Young souls reshaping the art scene of new age Africa. Being a mind with the opportunity to have a piece of their thoughts to share is amazing.
Comics are the topic of today, and he’s the founder of a company making one.
I was so excited finding a mind doing this, I lost it. Comics, we’ve all loved them as kids also we’ve had a few of our own in Africa but none never really lasted and was able to gain the kind of influence brand like Marvel, Archie has you know?
But we didn’t give up, the new age is up to the revive it again, Abasido Michael Akpan. co-founder of Akbar inc and co-creator of Captain Calabar. I’m an artist, illustrator, and 2d-animator is on a trail to be a source of comic joy.

AL: Does art help fight pain?

Abasido Michael: Absolutely. It’s a safe release. Some people battle pain with drugs, alcohol, or other substances. These are temporary numbs. I find that emotion must be channeled into art unless your piece is soulless. Art is an expression. It demands to be felt.
Art is a man emptying himself onfavoritecanvas, a beat, or any media, and giving you a piece of him. I find, that creating is independent of your mood. Sadness, anger, joy, anything must be expressed. You need to channel emotion or risk implosion. My pain or joy can be seen in any piece I create. Likewise, any piece I’m creating reflects on my face – If I’m drawing a violent scene, you would see me frowning till the piece is complete.


AL: Moods being reflected in the art are brilliant, it reminds me of Van Gogh portraits and how he reflects his moods, how do these moods affect your own art and creative process?

Abasido Michael: If I’m creating a piece, it has to come from somewhere. I have to feel something in order to pick up a pen and begin expressing it. If I just randomly pick up a brush and start dabbing, a few minutes in I’d have decided which direction I’m going – but it must have a direction unless I always end up discarding it. Art must have a soul.
When working on portraits or caricatures, if the character is smiling, I have to be too. When he’s gloomy, so am I. And it works vice versa. When I’m angry, if I pick up a brush, pen, or stylus, all my strokes would be violent. You would probably frown while looking at it.

AL: What’s the soul of your art? Why do you create?

Abasido Michael: I’m sometimes laughed at as the artist that doesn’t draw. I won’t create if I’m not inspired. I refuse to treat art as a job. It must be a passion. If I’m listening to music and I hear a phrase that brings ideas, I find something to sketch on. I create because ideas, moods, feelings, stories, etc. demand to be expressed. This is the only medium I know how to. I consider myself more an art enthusiast than an artist. I love anything artsy, whether paintings, music, movies, etc. I see no creative as competition. I look at other creatives and try to reason the inner workings of their minds. We all have some ideas, but not all have found their medium to express it.
I recently fell in love with comic art and a universe I want to create for African children to grow up to. I dream of showcasing the artsy sceneries of Nigeria globally. This dream spurs me on. This is why I’m currently creating. I have a story to tell.

AL: What drew you to become an artist?

Abasido Michael: Drew me? Bars…well, I started drawing since I was maybe 4 or 5. Couldn’t even write letters ‘E’ and ‘W’ right when I completed my first model drawing. I can’t vouch for its beauty, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Art fascinates me – there’s nothing else I’d rather do every day I wake up.
As an art enthusiast, I see a painting and I observe. I try to understand the composition and then the colors. My art teacher in secondary school always pushed me to draw, paint, or sculpt. Can’t tell if he saw something, but he definitely ignited something. I fell in love with Picasso, and more recently the expression of Vincent Castiglia… I think life thought me to rate happiness over money. I left behind all fears about “how to make money through arts” and decided, “I’ll take the risk. I’ll do what makes me happy. If money comes, it’s a big plus!”


AL: Art was never a real job, not having the credit and funding it deserves but that is changing now with more art galleries, creatives, and value for the culture. What do you feel about all this?

Abasido Michael: It’s absolutely terrific. Nothing beats doing what you love and getting paid to do it. I studied architecture because it was seen as the compromise between my art and a professional job. Asked what I want to be as a child, I said an artist, and I was made to believe all artists in Africa are poor.
Some children are still being raised with this mindset, but growing up, choices will be made. Some later than others. Everyone can see for themselves the growing art culture in Africa especially. The age has come. Africa to the world! They want to see what we have to offer. Our relevance is noticeable in every field of art there is, and now we’re charging for dominance. Art is something to be taken very seriously. Art imitates life.

AL: You’re channeling your art into creating comics, why comics?

Abasido Michael: Comic art is something I’m relatively new to. I knew the heroes favorite growing up def. We loved them. We had our favorite heroes growing up. These fictional characters are a part of our lives. But… there’s a fundamental problem. We do not truly understand these heroes. These characters were tailor-made for another culture. I’m trying to create something relevant to our culture. A plot every Nigerian would read and immediately relate to. A comic universe that all Africans would find application in. A collection of black heroes we can paste on our walls proudly. And we want to start by showcasing Nigeria to the world!

AL: How has being a creating in Africa shaped how you create?

Abasido Michael: As an African child in a comfortable enough home, you’re exposed to a whole lot of western culture- whether it be via television, school, or directly, the white man’s culture was brought on to you. However, to create, I find that applying what I don’t know fully leaves blanks. Picasso once said as an artist, you paint not what you see, but what you know is there. If you grew up in Africa, what you know is Africa. The western culture you know is not enough to create a masterpiece from. Master your surroundings to make a masterpiece.

AL: How would you define the culture of African art being created by new age Africa ?

Abasido Michael: I see the new age Africa as a force of nature. This is not a revolution that was planned. This is a new generation demanding to express things on their own terms. We don’t follow their rules anymore, we seek to create our own.
There’s a generation of hungry creatives looking to make their mark on the scope of African pop-culture. They take any forms, use any media, disregard all established rules. They want to create. The rules have been reviewed and revamped. This is not a culture that should be defined. Nothing should be anymore.

Red Paint

AL: How would you explain your art? Your art and creative process?

Abasido Michael: I see my art as expressive. It is who I am. My pieces are resultant of my moods, and yearn to communicate with another. How one would write a poem or sing some lyrics and establish a connection with their audience, so my art pleads visual interpretation.
My process heavily involves music. music directly influences anything I’m creating. While Kid Cudi will make me focus on entering my zone while creating, The Platters would add a jolly touch to all my pieces. Every piece needs a direction – The shuffle button is not my friend during creation.

AL: What impact do you want your art to have on the kids, and how does the comics you’d create help push your vision into the world?

Abasido Michael: I want to inspire the kids to show their inner spark to the world. Speak. Write. Dance. Draw. Show something to the world. Let’s hear you through any medium you’re happiest with. My comics are intended to spread the artsy workings of Nigeria to the world. The comics are laden with satirical undertones so it’s beyond just kids now. We’re delivering graphic stories with messages relevant to our generation and daily lives. Africa to the world

AL: What’s the beauty and exception you see in Nigeria/Africa’s new age that you always hope to project in your art?

Abasido Michael: The African new age is really daring when it comes to pushing boundaries. The expression of colors is unique. No matter how dark a scene is, it remains vibrant. The patterns and all things tribal are in our favor. We hold more chips when it comes to anything tribal- our cultural heritage gave us that. These are great features, however, the one thing I’ll always infuse has to be the skin. I’m black (chocolate actually, with just a little caramel). My pieces are black. Most of the pieces I see are black promoting black. If others won’t promote us, we have to promote ourselves how best we know. No matter how abstract a piece is, if you had to guess a race, it would be African. Consciously or unconsciously, the new age always projects this. That’s my favorite feature of the new age art.
We have created our vibe.

AL: What’s the idea for your art for the article?

Abasido Michael: I recreated an old sculpture synonymous to the fading Nsibidi script.

AL: Does the third world we live in limit creativity?

Abasido Michael: It threatens to but channeled right, it only enhances it. I can’t sit on the side of the road and paint. I can’t even sit on the side of the road too long. For figure studies, we were given textbooks (weak ones really) to learn about the body because painting nude models are taboo. Our cultural background sees creatives as different, and not in a good way. But the thing is, when you get faced with challenges, the real show of creativity is figuring a way around them. I was forced to drop Fine Arts for Geography to discourage me from drawing so I could focus on reading. Making a man hide to draw only increased his speed and ability to draw in tougher conditions. If there’s a will, there’s a way!

Face Tribe

AL: What future do you see for the new age arts going global?

Abasido Michael: There’s a revolution coming. In a few years, I feel we will be the leading relevant content producers globally. We are everywhere- One foot in, the other holding the door open for more. We are all the future.

AL: Our art has been stolen it from us for years, now that we’re gaining prominence how can we hold own and reflect our culture and the new age as our own?

Abasido Michael: We have to hold our own. No more selling out. Indie over corporate overlords. No more settling. We have our ideas, let’s push it. Let’s push each other.
The resistance takes us back to the question: Passion or profession? If a majority ticked the Passion box, then we have no worries. Our culture is our identity, no one else’s. We have learned theirs growing up. We have been exposed to how they live. Now it’s time to expose them to ours.

AL: Anything you’d like to share?

Abasido Michael: No matter how good, bad, or average you are, you can always get better. Always challenge yourself. You are your main competition.

AL: How do you feel?

Abasido Michael: Hungry. Need beans and bread.

Let’s get inspired by this.
It’s that simple.
Let the art move us.
Feel the growth, make it an escape.
We can do more now, let’s begin.

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