radar | ifeyinwa joy chiamonwu

April 19, 2017

words by: Vane Karolle

The ability to make the 'ordinary' surreal is not just an talent - it's a rare gift. For the artist Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu, it seems that gift of inverting subjective reality is inherent. 

A hyperrealist pencil-artist, Ifeyinwa sketches masterpieces by way of graphite and charcoal. 

Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu

Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu

Taking in Joy's works - like the ceremonial salutation displaying a hand fan for royals, the local percussionist and the kola nut offering - it's clear she's inspired by her rich Igbo heritage and culture. Stare at each work long enough, you'll be wondering when the drawings will spring to life.

Read on for Joy's interpretation of one of her works. 

Omenala (Tradition) "I am going to give a brief historical description and importance of three main objects that are of great significance in this artwork. First, I will start with the Cap; popularly known as the OKPU-AGU among the Igbo people of Nigeria, West Africa. The okpu-agu is made with woolen threads, and its color is mainly of the color red, white and black . It is mostly worn by elderly men or men of chieftaincy titles. The Okpu-agu is worn on special traditional occasions like coronations, new yam festivals, marriage ceremonies, title takings etc. Secondly, The neck and hand beads or coral beads. Popularly called AKA in Igbo dialect. The color of these beads are mostly white, red, and of the orange color. They are worn on the right hand and on the neck, by men and women, on special occasions like the fertility dances, festivals, marriage ceremonies, title takings, masquerade dances, coronations, and during traditional religious activities. However, the Aka symbolizes royalty, wealth, honor and indigenous identity. Although the Igbo people wear these beads, only a person born of royal blood is allowed to wear the white bead (AKA). Thirdly, The metal gong. Commonly called OGENE by the Igbo speaking tribe. The Ogene instrument is historically made by the Igbo people of Nigeria which is the most important metal instrument of the people. It is made by specialist blacksmiths. The instrument is flattish, conical shape and is hollow inside. The sound of the Ogene when struck with a wooden stick, comes from the vibration of its iron body. Ogene is not only used as a musical instrument during traditional ceremonies, but also as a means of communication, to pass out messages to the people or to call for village gatherings in different Igbo communities.Furthermore, Ogene is used in summoning up spirits. During the traditional wrestling matches that takes place in these communities , the ogene is used in raising up spirits of the wrestlers to show their manly strength." - Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu

Omenala (Tradition)

"I am going to give a brief historical description and importance of three main objects that are of great significance in this artwork.

First, I will start with the Cap; popularly known as the OKPU-AGU among the Igbo people of Nigeria, West Africa. The okpu-agu is made with woolen threads, and its color is mainly of the color red, white and black . It is mostly worn by elderly men or men of chieftaincy titles. The Okpu-agu is worn on special traditional occasions like coronations, new yam festivals, marriage ceremonies, title takings etc.

Secondly, The neck and hand beads or coral beads. Popularly called AKA in Igbo dialect. The color of these beads are mostly white, red, and of the orange color. They are worn on the right hand and on the neck, by men and women, on special occasions like the fertility dances, festivals, marriage ceremonies, title takings, masquerade dances, coronations, and during traditional religious activities. However, the Aka symbolizes royalty, wealth, honor and indigenous identity. Although the Igbo people wear these beads, only a person born of royal blood is allowed to wear the white bead (AKA). Thirdly, The metal gong. Commonly called OGENE by the Igbo speaking tribe. The Ogene instrument is historically made by the Igbo people of Nigeria which is the most important metal instrument of the people. It is made by specialist blacksmiths. The instrument is flattish, conical shape and is hollow inside. The sound of the Ogene when struck with a wooden stick, comes from the vibration of its iron body. Ogene is not only used as a musical instrument during traditional ceremonies, but also as a means of communication, to pass out messages to the people or to call for village gatherings in different Igbo communities.Furthermore, Ogene is used in summoning up spirits. During the traditional wrestling matches that takes place in these communities , the ogene is used in raising up spirits of the wrestlers to show their manly strength."
- Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu

Ifeyinwa uses her work as a means of putting the history of Igbo people in Nigeria, West Africa, on the global map. Her Instagram feed is rich with context and her native Igbo dialect. 

She should be on your radar.


All images c/o Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu

More of Ifeyinwa's works on INSTAGRAM

Find Vane Karolle on TWITTER