My parent named me Nnenna Mgbore Okore, after my paternal grandmother. As the first female granddaughter and customary to my native traditions, both names were given to me as a mark of continuity within my family lineage.
I was born in Australia, though I spent most of my teenage and early adult years within Nigeria. I moved to the United States over 10 years ago to pursue graduate degrees, and later employment in the art field. Moving overseas obviously bore new challenges, as I didn’t have access to the Nigerian cultural and political environment that largely infleunced my creative process and works. Also, having to cater to my young children over the years, without much needed help from my extended family in the West, made life abroad sometimes, lonely and difficult. Fortunately, I was able to visit Nigeria yearly and stay connected to my family and roots. I am presently in Nigeria on a yearlong Fulbright Scholar Award, and will be teaching at the University of Lagos, while producing new creative works.
For as long as I can remember, I have been artistically inclined. I started engaging in various forms of arts and crafts as a child, and moved on to specialize in Fine Art during my secondary and undergraduate levels. In my earlier career as an artist, I was more interested in the exploring colors and two-dimensional surfaces, and graduated from University of Nigeria at the top of my class with a painting major. Subsequently, I changed my area of focus and studied Sculpture in graduate school.
Today, my works, which are largely sculptural or spatial in nature, express a variety subjects ranging from the sociocultural to the environmental issues. Often times, I use very ordinary everyday objects and discarded materials including paper, burlap, clay, sticks and rope found within my surroundings, to create my forms and installations. I also employ simple day-to-day techniques such as, weaving, braiding, shredding, teasing, dyeing, waxing and sewing, and systematically deconstruct and reconstruct my media to yield subtle transformations of visual complexities. And much like impermanent earthly attributes, my organic and twisted forms mimic the dazzling intricacies of fabric, trees, barks, topography and architecture.
Through my artworks, I aspire to reveal the uniquely diverse and tactile characteristics of our collective physical world. I am intrigued by natural events like aging, death and decay that bring about weathering, dilapidation and lifelessness in objects – processes that subtly capture the fluid and delicate nature of life. And these are mirrored in my works.
When it comes to patronage, my works have been acquired by both African and non-African collectors. Generally speaking, my sculptures, which attract sales from both private and public collectors, are often displayed privately in client homes or publically in gallery or museum venues. In many cases, when a work is purchased, it is often accompanied with very detailed instructions for hanging and installation. Occasionally, a representing gallery (or I) has to be present at the site of installation to mount the art piece. It allows for the collector and the artist to be collectively involved in the final display of the piece.
My goal as an artist is to continue finding inspiration around me and inspire other. I generally try to maintain an active exhibition record, constantly seeking opportunities to share my ideas and works with others. No artistic accomplishment attained is an end to itself. I perceive every opportunity and achievement as a stepping block towards another, and look for avenues to leverage off it and accomplish more.
My time off from teaching at North Park University was made possible by the Fulbright Scholar Award. It will enable me to pursue other teaching opportunities and creative endeavours in Nigeria. It is also my hope to interact and collaborate with artists and curators from the area.
My best pastime is spending time with my young family – bike riding, swimming, hiking and playing in the park. My family is of utmost importance to me. And I don’t ever take for granted the sacrifices they have endured and the support they have provided to make my artistic career possible.