For close to a decade I’ve followed the career of Odera Igbokwe, a magnificent illustrator and painter whose art studies Afro-diasporic mythologies and Black resilience.
The queer child of Nigerian immigrants, Odera’s work explores the magic of the Black imagination and responds to the fractures that occur via diaspora, otherness, and displacement.
“Ultimately, my artwork celebrates joy, mundanity, and fantasy coexisting alongside pain and healing,” declares Igbokwe in a self-aware tone that makes him both captivating and charming. Let me tell you this: Odera is an artist who knows who he is, and more importantly understands how his origin story impacts his work.
I’m honored to have Odera as our featured artist for this week’s issue of Fictional. Our creative discussion was familiar, as we’ve been friends since 2012. At the same time, it introduced me to new facets of Odera that I’m just getting the pleasure to know now. We spoke on his upbringing, the method of storytelling he utilizes in his work as a painter, and how he’d like to be supported in 2021.
So, who is Odera Igbokwe? What’s your origin story?
Growing up Queer and Nigerian I lived through a lot of otherness. As a child, I was just trying to play Final Fantasy and sing along to Aaliyah in peace, but that was a bit much in the environments I traversed.
My name is Odera Igbokwe (They/Them and He/His). I am an illustrator and painter living and working on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
I am the child of Nigerian immigrants—which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who sees the Igbo call to solidarity as a family name. Before living in Vancouver, I was located in Brooklyn (for adulting), Providence (for learning), and New Jersey (for gestating).
Drawing, painting, and art have been with me since I could hold a pencil, but I didn’t start professionally illustrating until 2012 when I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Stylistically and thematically what kind of stories does your art tell? What tools do you use to bring your art to life?
As an artist, my work explores Afro-diasporic mythologies, Black resilience, and journeys to freedom. My artwork explores the magic of the Black imagination and responds to the fractures that occur via diaspora, otherness, and displacement. Ultimately, my artwork celebrates joy, mundanity, and fantasy coexisting alongside pain and healing.
Stylistically I love working with bold colours routed in earth tones. I’m heavily influenced by movement, dynamic shapes, figuration, and fantasy. Lastly, I really enjoy blurring the line between my stylistic references and the final product of my work.
As an illustrator, my favorite tools are rooted in the traditions of painting. This can range from, traditional graphite drawing with digital colours in Photoshop, to an acrylic painting, to gouache, to ink, to mixed media, to whatever gets the job done.
How would you like to see people support your art in 2021?
I make art for myself, my younger self, healers, Queer Astrologists who hold space for the community, Beyonce & Solange Scholars, soft QTPOC who miss Tumblr, and people at the crossroads of intersectional identity who just want to have bubble tea with their friends while reminiscing about their hobbies and interests. These are the kind of people who support and collect my work.
If you identify as any of the above I encourage you to visit my website. There you can choose how to connect, whether that be through my mailing list, social media, or purchasing work from any of the collections on display.
Throughout 2021 I plan to release new collections of artwork. The work will be centered around my community and transformation.
I really want to use my art for healing, and for it to serve as a source of inspiration in a time when so many desperately need it.
You can also join me on Patreon. Through my Patreon community, I have been able to spend more time creating work at the highest caliber, which doesn’t worry about genre, being too boxed in, being too Black, or being too Queer. My digital community of patrons has allowed me to embrace the nuance and intersections of identity that are threaded throughout my artwork.
Buy & collect Black art year-round
I want to thank Odera for being apart of this week’s issue. I am incredibly inspired by your work and I am so proud of all that you have accomplished. I look forward to celebrating your career as time goes on.
I'll definitely be picking up a piece before the year is over.