Kome is an Kome is an Architecture student at the University of Edinburgh. He is also an artist, who uses a variety of mediums such as acrylics, traditional African fabrics and ceramics. His artwork is centered around ideas around people and place, in particular, bridging the gap between his own British and Nigerian culture. A selection of his portraits were exhibited at
The Brick Lane Gallery as part of their "Art in Mind" series of exhibitions in December 2016.
What is your ethnicity?
Im Nigerian, Yoruba on my mums side and from Delta State on my dad’s side.
What was it like growing up?
I did most of my growing in Romford, and lived in Walthamstow for a bit before. I went to boarding school, and learnt how to paint and do most of my art stuff there, but I also did a lot of sports stuff and music stuff there. I was a music scholar, and an academic scholar, that’s how I got to be there and thats what I there for, but I really loved the Art and the teaching. When I left last year I was supposed to have a good post- A Level summer, but I kept on dislocating and breaking my shoulders and so I was hospital bound through sport.I was 16, and I just found some spare paints at home and I just thought it was something I could commit myself to, so that’s where it all started.
When did you become aware of your blackness? Does it affect you on a day to day basis?
I guess my blackness is something I think of day to day, but not so much just blackness that I think of, but more my identity as in my Nigerian identity, and sort of weighing up where I lie between my British identity and Nigerian identity. That’s something that’s more on my mind. I think that conflict shows in my artwork, in terms of the fabrics that I use, and the President coming from both places. One thing I’m concerned about is that you know is the racism at institutions like boarding schools. African parents mean well, and want the best for their kids, so they make their kids work extra hard, and send them to music school every weekend, and do extra tuition, and things like that to get them into these institutions , and get big scholarships there, but one thing that isn’t spoken about enough is the treatment of black and ethnic minorities in them. For example, I transitioned into a school in the middle of Kent where I was one of 14 black guys out of 800 students, and the things that a lot of these students have to go through is quite tough like a lot of causal racism and they’re still working hard to get into top Unis as well, so their experience is something that needs to be talked about more.
What is the best thing about your culture?
There’s so many good things about being Nigerian. The first thing I can think of is the food, l love my food! But the hospitality you know, I mean, there a lot of hospitable cultures, but I love the fact that when I go to my aunties house or an uncles house that I don’t even know will treat me with a certain level of respect, and you now, that’s something that’s not really duplicated in other cultures, so yeah, the hospitality is definitely something that I like. And the humour as well! Nigerian humour can be quite dark, you know, because there’s some serious issues but the way we approach them is quite funny.
How do you think people see you? Do you care?
I try not to think about it too much, because then I can overthink it and become insecure. I hope that my friends see me as driven, focused on what I want to do, like if I had a project and I want to do it, I will try and get it done, and quite silly sometimes, forgetful, like I forget stupid things. Clumsy, as well, like halfway through a painting, I’ll be doing half the face then I’ll spill paint on the half that I’ve just painted. Hopefully a fun, happy person.
What are your hopes for the future for yourself...
Personally, for what I want to see for myself, I’m really passionate about the architecture, I’m studying at the moment, and it’s really important to me that I don’t just get the degree, but go through, get my masters and qualify as an architect. It presents an opportunity to help in lots of ways. In the end hopefully, I want to design hospitals somewhere. I really want to keep the art going alongside that. I have dreams of becoming like my heroes, Chris Ofelie and Yinka Shonibare, just black artists who have really inspired me and I want to emulate them in a way. People like David Adjaye who is also an architect, I want to be like him and bridge the gap between architecture and art.
...And for the black community?
And for the black community, its already started to happen, but there used to be a bit of a stigma around being creative and expressing yourself through music and art and excelling in certain things and I think the more that stigma’s sort of gotten rid of, people will realise it’s cool to excel at academic things and classical music, which I did, I played double bass and piano. It’s cool to do your own thing and not have to adhere to certain things that you think have to be associated with blackness, you know? One of the things that really annoyed me at school was people being like “Oh, you play classical music? That’s such a white thing to do” and the whole issue with that is excellence in any field shouldn’t just be associated with whiteness in that sense, and it works the same the other way around too.