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I see the world differently from non-artists – Maryam Umar Maigida

Convinced she was born to be an artist; Maryam Umar Maigida took no time in making art her major profession and has since never looked…

Convinced she was born to be an artist; Maryam Umar Maigida took no time in making art her major profession and has since never looked back. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Maryam shares her artistic perspective on life, among other things.


Will you say you were born an artist or made an artist?

I would say I was born an artist. I developed passion for arts since I was a child; it started as early as in nursery school. Watching my dad work on his architectural drawings, I always attempted scribbling on his papers. It became so often he decided to provide some tracing papers and drawing books for me. We had a collection of encyclopaedias, so I always go through the pages looking at the images and tracing them.

And gradually, when we have guests, my parents would ask me to show them my drawings, I was encouraged by both family and friends. I can also remember how I would share pieces of papers to my friends and try to teach them how to draw, sometimes on the brick walls of our home. Again, I would say, born an artist and encouraged to be an artist.

Why do you make art? Is it for profit, to gain fame, to answer a deep calling or to transform the world?

I make art because art has become a part of me. It has already influenced my entire being as a person. My passion became my career then my full-time profession. So, I make art because I feel it’s my calling and the advantages that come with it is the profit and the fame.

Producing art has become a subconscious process; I just make them, I don’t even have to think too much, all I have to do is pick up my brush and there it is.

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Do you think you see the world differently from non-artists?

Yes! I think I see the world differently from non-artists, I feel we are more observant and sensitive to our environment. It’s just like putting an apple in front of an artist and a non-artist and asking them to draw it. It could take the artist 3 days or a week to complete that drawing while it takes the non-artist just a few minutes. This is because we have the ability to observe every angle, perspective, form, texture, tone, down to every detail it takes to make sure the apple drawing comes out exactly as it is. And that perspective applies to how they view life in general, from environment to human endeavours.


What do you like most about being an artist?

I like the fact that I can feel so much emotion, I like the fact that I can connect to diverse human endeavours and be able to put that on canvas, either to transform it for aesthetics or pass a message to my audience. I also like the fact that I can explore different cultures and societies from any corner of the world just by depicting it on my canvas. For instance, I like to fuse together different cultures to symbolize brotherhood, Therefore, I can take tribes from Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and put them together in a painting using figures or objects which represents them.  There’s the freedom of expression as well as giving my opinion or frowning upon issues in the society through my paintings.

What gives you the most joy?

What gives me most joy is my religion (Islam) and my parents. Without my parents support, I wouldn’t have been an artist. They encouraged me 100 percent till the point I decided to pursue arts as my career in the university. I would also say what gives me so much joy is I’m among the few female artists from northern Nigeria. I didn’t grow up seeing artists around me or hearing stories about art or even looking up to any female artist until I was in the university. I am happy I was able to break into the art world.

What will you say is the purpose of art in the society?  

Art serves diverse purposes in the society some of which are for aesthetics. It adds value and beauty to our space. Secondly, it serves therapeutic purposes. Art is used in hospitals systems as a way of improving the health of patients, especially those passing thorough mental health issues. Currently, the Nigerian art market can be valued in huge amount of money putting together works from galleries and individual artists. The art is not just for communication but also helps generate money.

Do you often find it hard to detach yourself from a particular painting?

Several times I find it difficult to detach myself from my paintings —it’s like a mother and child. From the thinking to the creative process of producing that painting, it’s like sending out parts of me. There are some of my paintings I might likely buy back from the collectors in future.

Which is more important to you, the end result, the process or both?

Both the process and end result are very important to me because the process actually considers my whole mental being until I am done with the painting. If my creative process isn’t going well, it makes me develop a chronic anxiety which then restricts me from completing the painting. If there is no smooth process, then there is no ending.

How do you improve on your skills?

I like to explore different techniques in painting and also, I like to incorporate more ideas while I am working. I also get acquainted with some artists who help broaden my knowledge. You improve your skills by always trying and challenging yourself towards what you think you cannot do.

Do you usually plan a painting or are you spontaneous with your ideas?

My paintings are spontaneous… I work with the idea that’s on my mind at that given time. I could plan a painting for weeks then at the time of producing it, I do a completely different work far from what I have been planning. I am the kind of artist that does what the mind tells me. It’s completely in control, I don’t have any rule book.

What’s the average time for you to complete a painting?

I actually paint very fast; I have completed a Durbar painting in one hour thirty minutes. It comes with the mood; some paintings take weeks while some take just few hours.

What is your favourite colour and why?

Pink is my favourite colour because it attracts me and I am usually drawn to what attracts me. It’s a calm peaceful colour and it makes me happy. I have so many pink clothes & shoes and in most of my signature paintings you will find pink in it.

What is your ideal working environment?

My ideal working environment is my home. I highly enjoy working from my home because I can work very early in the morning and that means I can access all my art supplies which I have tons of. I can make all the mess I want also and I can sleep when I get tired.

If you could advise your younger self, what would you say?

I honestly don’t have any advice for my younger self. I have thought about it all the time but I can’t find a missing piece. I am thankful for that.


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