Odera Igbokwe, Artist – Vancouver

Odera Igbokwe is an illustrator and painter of Nigerian ancestry based in Vancouver by way of Brooklyn, NY. They graduated with a BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design, and studied West African Dance/Movement Theater at Brown University with New Works/World Traditions. Odera weaves together ancient narratives with Afrofuturist visions by alchemizing color, movement, and queer magic. Their work explores storytelling through Afro-diasporic mythologies, Black resilience, and magical girl transformation sequences. As a freelance illustrator, Odera works with clients and galleries to create work that is deeply personal, soulful, intersectional, and accessible to underrepresented communities.

  1. Clouds

In March 2020 I started a painting that centers the metaphor of the breath of life. In my research phase I started collecting and taking photos of different cloud patterns, and haven’t been able to stop ever since.

Clouds can be cliché, but they offer so many lessons about texture and movement. I like to imagine the flexibility required to be a cloud. How can I embody what appears to be a constant, steady, yet slow movement? How can I be ephemeral while still maintaining my structure?

  1. The unlimited energy, playfulness, and creativity of the Black imagination

One of our greatest gifts and talents as a collective and community is to have unlimited energy to create, alchemize, and make lemonade from lemons. Whether it’s the inventiveness of new words via AAVE, generative ideas through the history of call and response, or meme-ifying and song crafting as a way of protest, the Black imagination is birthed from a resilience that blesses the world with our creativity. My recent favorites are the meme-ification of Hip-Hop Harry, “You about to lose yo job…”, rewatching old Soul Train videos, and really any natural and intuitive moments of call and response where Black joy and play can exist despite the state of the world.

  1. Outfit checks

I am always thinking about colour, texture, pattern, and the seemingly invisible threads and structures that hold all of these things together. This is a common thread in my paintings, but sometimes I need a process with more immediacy. My clothing choices and outfit checks tend to provide that immediate sense of exploration, and keep me balanced and in sync with my need to explore colour, texture, and pattern.

  1. Mask traditions

If we can inherit generational curses, what do our generational blessings look like? The exploration of generational blessings often leads me to the connection between the physical and spiritual – the spaces where otherness and inbetweeness can become a home. Nigerian masquerades and mask traditions feel like a familial relic and heirloom, where the physical object becomes a gateway. And it’s a constant reminder of the power of transformation and embodied practices.

  1. Complimentary colour palettes in nature

Life drawing and direct observational studies are a big part of my process. While my work centers on the imaginative, spiritual, and fantastic, the constant anchor is from the lived experiences and physical phenomena of this world. Colour plays such an important role in my process. And my favorite colour palettes tend to be complimentary colour systems. I love when I can create vibrant harmonies that are anchored in rich neutrals and hues that are difficult to immediately discern or mix. Plants, bugs, and natural light tend to ground this sort of colour selection for me.