OKIKI AKINFE: @okikiakinfe






Okiki Akinfe is a fabulous emerging artist. Although a new discovery through Instagram, her work has quickly become some of my favourite.


Akinfe is currently studying at the wonderful SLADE.


Akinfe’s work channels an exploration of the social body language of the alpha archetype, in response to observations of the Ape species reflected in human behaviour and psyche. 

Her work is a response to observations of alpha male and female archetypes and projections on how they are deemed to be displayed. Going on to asking questions about; how they assert themself in social situations? How can the landscape Express these moments? How does race and cultural upbringing enhance or weakens stereotypes that are related to these archetypes? 

Akinfe’s works is striking in its fluidity, its calmness and its sincerity. Each stroke. Her tonally brilliant colour palette denotes a natural, earth inspired piece, with each figure surrounded by billows of muted colour.

I love her works for their lyrical quality, the sublimeness and the richness. The abstract figuration and the deep palette. They are otherworldly, yet so familiar. 



    "Acidic, spiritual and figurative"



    What made you decide to follow a creative career choice? Was it ever in question? Or was it inevitable?


    I believe it was always inevitable for me to have follow a creative career, I don’t think I would have nearly enjoyed anything as much as being an artist, for would have been as interested. There were no if and but about it, I think it was more about convincing my parents to be on board early on, as it is very common for any parent (particularly Nigerian) to want their children to pursue a “stable” career, wanting the best for them by wanting them to be either doctors or lawyers, but I am happy to say they got on board early on.


    What was your earliest memory surrounding art?


    The earliest memory I have that assured me that I want to be an artist happened when I was about five, I Remember Going to the National Art Gallery in London during the summer holiday with my middle sister and my mother and seeing this painting of girl sitting, and she looked very still and chilled, yet very moody. I remember thinking it was a stark contrast to the other large Renaissance paintings, both different sized painting had a large indescribable feeling to them. Been able to recreate that feeling it's what got me interested in the art.


    You have such a beautiful technique with paint. How were you trained?


    I did my foundation year at the royal drawing school starting about three years ago, where I would credit it to learning how to draw academically in a fairly intense year where I first started really using oil paint, Before that i was pretty much practicing with acrylic paint at your normal state school level. But I would like to believe i am still learning and working on my technique, but I do strongly believe in the importance of drawing as a part of training.


    What 3 words would you use to describe your work?


    Acidic, spiritual and figurative


    Tell us about your process? How does each work come to fruition? Tell us about your technique?


    Like everyone my process started with an idea. I can find ideas from many things either visual ques, conversations, or/and current events. I have always music to be a source of inspiration and listening to a variety of artist like: FKA Twigs, Solange, Nao, SZA, Kate Bush, Yoruba gospel music, up and coming artist like MUVA (mother of earth), and many more.


    I think, it is because I can identify with the themes that theses artist explores and depth, they go into laying their works over. A more recently example I’ve been looking at is FKA Twigs most recent album, exploring religion, spirituality, sexuality, what makes a woman? how religion treats woman? It is a musicians Job to tell stories and experiences that work to interact with your visual and auditory senses and think paintings or any other form of art can do that too.


    I would like to believe that I can do the same to recreate theses experiences that feel ineffable, like religious experience. you can’t describe it but its just a feeling you know and recognise.


    Of course it hard to put all these ideas to a visual image, so the main bulk of the process comes from finding what images can I draw upon to recreate that feeling and how does one do this using existing images that can frame with as they have a exist meaning and association to a particular thing or said experience. Then I start drawing.

    How do you know when a piece or project is finished and needs no additional work?


    It is still hard for me to decide when something is finished, because you would constantly want to push yourself and your painting to make something is new, but you wouldn’t want to over work something. Currently, a painting is finished to me if I cannot find a reason to change anything.


    What are your ideal conditions to paint? What is your studio like? And what are your artist essentials to work?


    Being at the Slade we share studios, so this year I have been fortunate to have a nice studio and good studio mates which a big essential because every artist needs a good chat ready when working. My list is really is:
    Large headphones, a charger for my headphones and phone, a water bottle, great snacks (preferably Plantain chips and/or digestive biscuits),


    OKIKI, Who or what is your greatest inspiration? How does this inspiration come out in your work?


    My first and foremost inspiration comes from the old masters with their dramatic flamboyant paintings, yet I have found it is hard at times to find inspiration because aside from technique it can be hard to keep looking towards something to which you cannot fully identify yourself with or it could be good as it means you would be forced to look at other things instead. I would say overall, I don’t have a greatest inspiration and it is a combination of multiple things that may or may not put into my work.

  • Okiki, tell me about the figures in your work? What are their stories? What you hope to show through them?


    Most of the figures in my work are based of real people and more of a symbol of what I can see between myself and that these people. I would say I care more about that representative rather than the actual background of the person. Like with #Magdalene I think I can see myself in what she was like, thinking about how the female body is depicted in the church, but also the courage and bravery she must have had only for history to remember her wrong and recently circle back to the truth. There are other things that tie in with idea and that goes into the painting, but I can’t say I pre-plan that. I would say the all happen to together while I’m working.


    If you could own one piece of artwork in the world, as if money or likelihood was no issue, what would it be and why?


    There are multiple pieces I would want to own, but recently I would say I would want to own one of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings and I would mostly likely stare at it all day. She has the most beautiful way of painting Black skin tone, its truly amazing. I would study it every day, as painting skin has been one the hardest things ever for me and still learning to capture it.


    What does creativity mean to you?


    For me I strongly believe a lot of my work (me trying to be creative) is me trying to explain my experiences or thoughts in a way that I would never be able to vocalise or would never try to/ want to vocalise. I mean If I was a singer, I would write songs but because I like the paint, I have found that creativity for me has been the more about making work for myself. Which has been more of a therapy, but it's hard to sort of express certain things because I do forget other people are going to look at it.


    What is your greatest indulgence in life?


    Without a doubt food then skin care, maybe it is just a student thing.


    What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?


    - Don’t listen to people
    - Listen to the right people
    - Time is effort


    What are you working on at the moment?




    What is your ultimate dream project?


    I would say I have a list of A list of things, I would like to do like the Studio Museum residency one day, but I don’t necessary have a ultimate dream more so I have things I would like to do and are open to opportunity’s.


    Who is your favourite historical female artist?


    I wouldn’t say I have a favourite as I really trying to learn more about them, but I would say my first interact with a historical female artist was Artemisia Gentileschi. She painted Judith Slaying Holofernes, which is a sick painting and I had for a long time thought I was painted by a man until I watched a documentary about her life. She was doing things dispite what the fact that there were few spaces for female artist at her time and achieved a lot regardless of the horrible things that happened to her.

    And your favourite current practicing female artist?


    Nengi Omuku


    Is there anything else you wanted to say?


    I would want to say thank you very much for the interview and that I really appreciate it. I think there should be done to hear more from Black and POC voices in art world. There is a really great documentary series on the BBC, which I would strongly recommend, it is called ‘Black Hollywood: ‘They’ve Have us’ and do think it is really true in the art world they really do have to have, but it can be said but when we are needed. I think the worst thing anyone can do is make the fact that Black Lives Matter a social media trend for the summer, but not long-term fact, that that is consciously remembered. It would be great to hear these voices. I’m not sure how exactly it goes about it but I would love to see a way as to how it can be done.