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Ella Onyebe: A creative artist at work

We all pass through most of these courses as compulsory courses while we choose a course in the final year. Because of that you learn…

We all pass through most of these courses as compulsory courses while we choose a course in the final year. Because of that you learn how to do most fields of arts. But in my final year I specialised in painting. When leaving with your degree certificate, you leave with B.A Creative Arts. Not with a degree in painting or whatever course you finished with.

Usually I buy pots and paint on them. I get my potters to mould the works in my style and after firing them, I paint them into a variety of colours and designs.

People need pots and vases to beautify their homes, so they are mostly for interior or exterior decorations.

I also do paintings like mixed media, flowers paintings, abstract, wall designs and paintings for interior.

Do your works have general features theme?



It is the inspiring power of water and colours.

There are a lot of ethnic features in your work like the calabash, combs, etc; why do you use them and what do they represent?

I use them because they are natural and very African and for the mixed media concepts of the painting. Like the calabash, also known as ludayi in Hausa (drinking spoon for nono and kunu). For the calabash, they are two halves on both sides which when interpreted signifies two hearts become one. E.g. it takes two hearts to become one. The painting title is as olum which in Idoma means ‘my home’.

The combs in the title painting known as ’Yar Fulani (Fulani girl) are also symbols for the hair plaiting. It’s entirely abstract, besides the lady. My aim is for the work to help explain more about the Fulani lady. Like the first one signifies the sun. The lady toils in the heat of the sun to sell her products and the flower is a tree beneath which she rests when she is tired. The fish is food she provides for her home. In the middle are her jewelries she maintains as her accessories. Her children and family are the next ones. Then the combs, she goes out to plait people’s hair and they come back to do her own. They are known for their hair style all over Africa and the rest of the world.

You used a lot of lines and geometry, are they easier to control or they interpret your messages better?

I mostly use them to interpret my works especially when I am doing abstracts or mixed media. But not all the esthetic viewer or art appreciator can understand my works until I explain them better and the get surprised or amazed when I interpret them. Also painting is the freedom of expression by the artist who truly can tell better. The are mostly some African motifs.

Pottery, painting, mixed media; which represent you best?

Well they all do. But ceramics easily represents me because of the uncommon designs and colours I use on them. Most of my works are hardly seen around because I don’t do what others do. I think my works have inspired other artists a lot and they have learnt from them too. All the works I do are inspirations I get from within, they are my creativity concepts.  I am also good in mixed media and I learn a lot from things I see around and from professional artists who know mixed media well like Aderinkomi John Adeleye. He encourages and inspires me as well. Stanley Anyanwu, is both mixed media and still life painter.  Oswald, who recently had an exhibition in Transcorp Hilton is a still life painter as well does abstracts. They all inspire me with their works at arts and craft village.

What other art do you do?

Fashion beads, batik, knitting (wool work) interior designs, throw pillows, venue decoration, wall designs and anything my hands can do.

Explain your works, pride of a woman, masculine, and the beauty below.

The painting, Pride of a woman; as you can see shows it all. Her beauty within and without, her pride to bring into the world another hero, her pride to build her home, the painting here shows that she’s proud of herself. Another name for this painting is ‘she dey make eyanga’

The masculine is also titled Alekwu of Idoma land. It was a belief by the Idoma of the ancient days that alekwu is an ancestral spirit who gives goodwill and justice for the people.

The series beauty below; this is an abstract with a figure, I like to see if people know what they see and the hardly guess right. But actually that is supposed to be a female figure. It not so obvious but that tells the difference between a male and female. And even when the women dress up, her curve so her beautiful figure.

Life within; the red flower here showed the good will of the heart and how many people have a lot to give out but circumstance wont allow them. The dreams just say within, they are not heard I believe some day in Nigeria, the great future of our people will be unveiled, where even the youth will be heard.