Nigerian mixed-media artist Dandelion Eghosa is creating new a modern language through photography, collage-art, poetry, and film. Through her artworks, this language is used to communicate, document and permeate the expressions of marginalized bodies and to confront social norms of her community with regards to gender, sexual identity and mental health.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I’m 26 years old and from Edo state. I graduated in 2014 after studying Modern languages and I moved to Lagos.
How useful was your classical training in Modern languages in shaping your artistic aesthetic and how you communicate the narrative of your artworks?
I’m uncertain how much the study of language has influenced my aesthetic. As a poet, the impacts can be seen in my works and titles. More so than anything, I express love for language, wherein I imbue small, soft details.
What was it that initially drew you to documenting the expressions of marginalized identities?
There are a few reasons why I’ve been drawn to documenting marginalized bodies. First, both I and the people that I love wear the same shoes. As soon as we begin talking about our experiences, I’ve found it relieving to know that we aren’t alone. It’s important to tell these stories and document our lives as this provides us with a powerful source of emotional release. It’s cathartic in that, for most of us, this was the first time we’ve had that chance to feel seen.
Why is it important for you to tell the stories that you do in a wide range of varying mixed media?
When I started mixed media, I remember thinking that it would make me less of a photographer. However, no matter the medium, the message the work carried always hit home. In my creative journey, I’ve found that my curiosity for the unknown has been a constant search, which has led me to explore other perspectives in regards to delivery. With mixed media, the process is an experience and it’s quite adventurous. There’s always something new to see and something new to think about.
How do the images which you capture inform or translate into other works you make?
In my work, I capture the expressions of everyday life. This includes celebrating the lives of people who brave living on their own terms and not as society has conditioned them to. As well, this means telling the stories of people who are rarely heard and struggling to negotiate an authentic identity in certain spaces. In many ways, this practice helps us — both myself and people in my stories — imagine our freedom. Isn’t an individual a product of their own experiences?
Your first solo exhibition was titled ‘Unspoken Rudiments’, where did the idea for it stem from?
The idea for Unspoken rudiments came from collecting memories of home—the feeling of nostalgia and a constant sense of longing.
Tell us more about your documentary film “Ahoèmon-egbé” and the experience of creating it.
My film titled ‘Ahoemoe-egbe’—which translates to love in the Esan language— is an ongoing documentary. This film aims to explore the perspectives of women living in rural communities who didn’t choose their husbands on the meaning of love. It was important to me that these women explain love in their own language and in their own cultural contexts. Language is one of the barriers that prevent them from having these kinds of conversations. In the future, the plan is to broaden the demographic to accommodate those who are evolving in their experiment with love. I grew up with these women and in this community so creating this film was both nostalgic and bittersweet.
What is it about collage art that excites you most?
Collage art is an adventure. I have found layers of myself in this creative process that I never knew before. The exciting part is the fun, formlessness and flexibility of the experience.
You tend to mask the identities of your subjects in your collages, what is the symbolism here?
The masks keep the identities of my subjects anonymous. People tend to search for personal stories—including gender and sexuality—on the faces of others. The idea is to remove the focus from the surface to challenge people to look beyond what they see.
What sort of conversations do you wish your art to spark regarding gender and sexual identity in retrospect to the status quo in Nigeria?
It’s a list but a few questions are in regards to the psychological effects of being closeted, domestic abuse across all gender/sexual spectrums, and taking accountability for how we practice love.
Mental health is one of the many paradigms that your artworks confront, what draws you to this issue and what about it do you want your viewers to learn through your art?
I have struggled with mental illness for a good part of my adulthood. I know what it’s like to be in an environment where mental illness is stigmatized and trivialized. As well, I know how it feels to be in the dark where love can’t reach you. I’d like my viewers to know that I am opening a space through my art for them to have honest conversations about their lives, they aren’t alone and should remember to be a little kinder to themselves.
What’s next for you?
I doubt it will be exciting if I let you know my next move, so I guess we’d have to wait and see.
Where can people go to follow your work?
My website is ready in December, but for now, you can find me on @pastonoiseau.