Art and identity in St James’s Market Pavilion | St James's London

Art & Theatre

Art and identity in St James’s Market Pavilion

Read more

Explore culture and identity at a new installation in St James’s Market Pavilion

Àsìkò is a self-taught Nigerian photographer who spent his formative years in Nigeria before moving to London in the mid-90s. Together with MTArt Agency, we’ve brought his stirring collection of prints and photographs to St James’s Market Pavilion in our neighbourhood's latest public art installation. We sat down to find out more about his unique perspective and approach to art.

Great to meet you Àsìkò. We’d love to hear more about your work

My work centres around African heritage, particularly my Nigerian culture, as well as identity and femininity. The examination of my culture led me to explore womanhood within Nigeria. I love my culture, but I also acknowledge that while there are aspects of culture to hold onto - including say respect for elders - no culture is perfect. Cultures themselves can be rigid and not open to new ideas. For example, women can still be treated as second class citizens regardless of their status and sometimes in spite of it. It’s important to recognise that in African culture, women did have prominent and key roles in society pre-colonialism – their voices were heard, and they had equal footing in society. I’m greatly influenced by the strong matriarch characters in my life, including my mother, grandmother and aunties who have helped me to illustrate a story of the strength within black women.

There’s also key male characters who’ve had a huge impact on my life. From the legacy of my grandfather who set up a printing company, to my father, who saw partnership with my mother as extremely important and was very open to sharing ‘the space’ with my mother – that’s how I choose to build my family life and relationship with my wife.

My work aims to highlight the beauty and strength of the African woman within the framework of culture and the contemporary world.

Why did you choose to exhibit here in the West End?

I like showcasing my art in public spaces. MTArt suggested St James’s Market Pavilion because there’s lots of passers-by so it’s a great opportunity to show these images and promote the beauty of a black woman alongside a retrospective of my work over the last couple of years. It’s important for people to see different images and expressions of blackness instead of the stereotypes that are sometimes shown. St James’s is also known as the home of art, with one of largest concentrations of art galleries in the country - so it’s a natural fit!

You work a lot with collage. How do you know when a piece of work is finished?

I don’t always know if it is. I could go over and over it again - add another image, a symbol… but I do make the decision to walk away sometimes as it can get frustrating. I usually go with how I feel.

With so much going on, how do you manage your time?

It’s all about setting boundaries on time spent working and not working - balancing family commitments, finding down time and finding space to rest. I’m always working to be more mindful and enjoy the life I have.

See Àsìkò’s work at the St James’s Market Pavilion until the end of December. Plan a cultural day out and explore nearby art galleries and theatres in St James’s.