Nigerian visual artist, Fred Martins also known as Martinx, sure does it best when it comes to communicating with his works.
In his latest series titled, ‘Onye isi, ‘Lee Nu Echi’, an Igbo statement which literally means ‘Leader, Look At Tomorrow’, Martins strategically confronted the “ignored struggles of African children” ranging from child marriage, child labor and other abuses.
In this interview with Erin C.J. Robertson, Martins discusses issues which borders on the different forms of abuse that African children go through.
He reveals that the motive behind his creations is to protest practices which are not right in order to contribute his own quota towards affecting the society positively.
Your previous art has touched on different subject matter such as environmental conservation and incarceration of African activists, what’s the impetus behind this series?
It is disheartening to wake everyday with all cognizance that children who are believed to lead the (future of) Africa are still left to die or grow in conditions that are very hostile to their (mental health). As such, I create art to protest the issues that I don’t agree with, aiming to positively influence my society.
How did you decide on the themes you touch on in your latest illustration? In particular, recent imagery of the child solider has become controversial, what sort of dialogue do you hope to initiate?
I am worried about the future of Africa. These works are aimed at questioning the instability that undermines our leadership. The chances of breaking out of the cycle of poverty in Africa is inconceivably [minute] with these issues brushed aside. I lived in the Crimea during the turmoil that resulted in Russia annexing the state. The war speculations then were very disturbing for me as an adult, and seeing those war-ready tanks, planes and masked soldiers with big guns wasn’t a good moment to behold. To get children involved in a war is to ruin their future as they develop. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder makes them instruments of war throughout [their] life. The detrimental effects do not fade easily. The major dialogue intended is to implore the African youths to resist the selfishness that is crippling Africa’s development.
Could you explain the process involved in creating these illustrations?
They are digitally painted. Mostly inspired by images found when searching for ‘African child’ on the internet. I also had to investigate more to understand which regions these issues are common in.
Why do you think the African government has largely ignored the challenges that African children face?
Selfishness. Ignorance. Many of these leaders consider these issues as normal and expect that the children live and deal with it. Or still, they expect an unseen force to fix them. I once said that ‘Africa seems to be where all future lies in God’s hand, while Europe is where the future is planned, worked out and handed to the people under God’s watch.’
What do you hope your series “Onye isi, Lee Nu Echi” will accomplish for those who view it? What do you hope they will come to understand?
To challenge good leadership emotionally, so that they will reach down and work to ensure a brighter future for tomorrow’s Africa, rather than [choose] self enrichment. I hope that we understand that we are the saviour of our own selves, [even though] we keep leaning on foreign aid to resolve all our problems.
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