Rising Artist Emediong Uko speaks on Fela, Lagbaja-inspired art and industry growth


Emediong Uko

Art is inspired by life and whatever muse the artist finds interesting. In Nigeria, most of the art are social commentaries seeking change.

For 19-year-old Emediong Uko, art is inspired by music and nature in a bid to relate with the audience and spark conversations.

Emediong recently unveiled two Fela-inspired painting, ‘Shuffering and Smiling’ and ‘Beast of no Nation’ to celebrate the strength of Nigerians.

In May, her painting of music legend, ‘Lagbaja’ became the first African work to be displayed at the Cyprus Modern Art Museum.

Emediong is also the youngest artist and only African to have her work exhibited at the museum, which is the largest in the Mediterranean region.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the weekend, Emediong maintained that Nigerian artists hold the power to create a better society through their works.

How did you feel when your work was displayed in Cyprus?

I am glad that my work and exhibition in Cyprus is creating a dialogue around African arts. It created a door and by the time you come in you can see that this is totally different and people want to know the story behind it.

Why did you decide to paint Lagbaja?

I have been heavily influenced by Lagbaja’s music from a young age. I have also been influenced by Fela Kuti. I decided to focus on Lagbaja for a bit because of his musical and controversial personality. That was exactly what excites me in terms of creativity. These are things that create dialogue. Things that uphold the norm. I created Lagbaja piece almost as a tribute. I wanted his name to live on. Someone that people will always ask of.

What inspires your works?

I want people to see beauty in things and I want people to be inspired to tell their own stories. You might not be a painter but you should be able to relate to my art piece in your own way. You see something or see an art piece of mine and I want you to say you saw it and it reminded you of something.

Were you expecting the buzz gotten from the Lagbaja piece?

I wasn’t expecting to get this much acclaim. As a Nigerian artist in the diaspora, I relate with home. When you are overseas, almost everything gives you a nostalgic feeling; you always want to relate back home.

Your works are usually musically inclined, why?

I see myself delving into musical, political arts these days. I find that I paint things that people should talk about and nobody is talking about. A popular Asa song said, ‘there is fire on the mountain and nobody seems to be on the run’. We think about these things but we don’t talk about them. That’s exactly what we want.