Living in Art – An interview with DuksArts
After he realized he was going to do art all his life, Nduka formed the alias DuksArts; after a friend from JS1 decided it was cool to call him “Duks”.
Easily accepting the description as a burning moth, Duks calls himself “a neo-expressionist called to preach the gospel of design”.
“I’m a visual evangelist,” He says, “The vision is simply to preach art design, forge and influence it for the better, however I can. It’s all about pushing the culture forward. My focus is on everything. Everything art, everything performance, everything music, everything beautiful.”
Duks is truly an artist of all forms. He has written and produced songs, worked on a video game, created album art for 95% of current Nigerian artistes and directed music videos for them.
“To whoever coined the quote “jack of all trades, master of none”, I am the exception, but there is much more I’d love to explore,” He reveals enthusiastically, “My aim is purely to use my hands, my heart and the skills I have learned along the way to make the world smile, and spin not only faster, but better! I am also a voice of the dejected and the unheard. I have been called an art therapist. I like to use what is in my heart to paint pretty pictures. Pictures that would elevate the downcast. We all pass through this world and experience pain. It’s nice to look and listen to stuff that would ease that a little. ”
Identifying as a more spiritual being he believes it is essential to make art right from the heart and be confident in it, no matter how grotesque or incorrect.
“That is how you grow, that is what makes you pure. That is what makes you YOU.” The 26 year old Nigerian says.
Growing up, he had a comic book store 4 blocks from my mother’s house where he’d hideout in the back to read through all the comics. The fascination had led him from drawing his own batman comics in the back of his math book to understanding the art in everything.
“I don’t need go to an art museum to notice how glorious my mother looked whenever she got dressed for church. Art a vibe, and it is the most powerful one in existence.”
For Duks, art will be expressed. It is a force that demands respect, and it will get it from anyone, regardless of rank or status. He describes it as the purest form of expression.
“Asides momma, art basically raised me and gave me purpose,” Duks confessed. His mother, his biggest supporter and fan is also an artist, and his best friend. “So if I keep my brush closest to my heart, I can never die. I may be in my prime, but I have not activated all my chakras. I’m not going to lie that I haven’t already seen what my craft had done in the art scene here in Nigeria. I am happy to see young creatives take up arms, and just create what is real to them, no matter how hard things are here.”
Duks, like many others in Africa right now, agree that it is in the wildest place it’s ever been in years. Art and Music has put people in the highest spots in society. The art culture is also growing and gaining grounds in the continent, and many more people are understanding it.
“Growing up, I was always called ‘weird’ because of my strange perspectives on life, but today I’m called ‘weird’ less, so that’s kind of cool.” Duks laughs, “People are finally waking up to ‘individuality’ and who’s to blame? Art. EXPRESSION. Whenever I take on a new project, I become a vessel. Nervous as I am, I still make sure that I am channeling the essence of a particular person, idea or thing. The finished work has to be real. It has to be felt. It’s never about me, it is always about what is being created. I am only a translator. I am called a chameleon because of my range of styles, I can be unpredictable with my approach to certain projects. It scares me.”
“There is never a well-dressed definition to what art is, but I’ll tell you that is the core of what is truly is to be human and beyond, It is the bridge where creativity meets spirituality to bring about unrefined emotional power. A power, powerful enough to move God. Yes, much like a prayer.” Duks explains.
The new Generation in Africa is filled with artists and young talents that hold expression and have global influence. The only thing needed are the proper structures, media and the finances to enable them to showcase their aesthetics. Duks believes the proper way to respond to this is through connections.
“We need to bring the community together however we can to build relationships with the right people first, then execute projects that show that we mean business. We also need to focus on the schools. Foundation is the most important part of mind-building.” Says the artist, “The further I climb up ‘Mount Art’, the more I realize that there isn’t a pinnacle. I still believe in proving myself. We need to create better and share smarter, regardless of our limitations.”
Like many others, Duks believes in the merging of the African aesthetic with the western know-how, but distinctively he understands that knowing and understanding ones roots is what will enable Africa to elevate themselves above all others in terms of building a self-sufficient economy.
“Living in Africa has helped me appreciate certain behaviors and aesthetics a non-African wouldn’t. I have learned to see beyond skin. I have learned a level of human interaction beyond what many can fathom, I have learnt to be sensitive, bold and respectful with every stroke I lash across the canvas. I may be sensitive to a degree, but there’s no holding back when I create, I am love, I am bane, I am light, I am dark. I am only a messenger of expression. My vision tends to come from any and everywhere, but you can find me in the morbid side of life. I may be a design soldier who fights against the ‘ugliness’, but I see beauty in everything… even in darkness.”
Understanding the mantel for greatness doesn’t fall on the community but on the individuals that make up the community is the first step to realizing that Duks is here for the long haul, for the fight to push art and artists beyond the norm and to greater heights.
“Let us shout and let the world know that we exist. Art shows aren’t enough.” He blatantly states, then adds laughing, “We need to throw art slumber parties.”
A tinge of seriousness settling in as he says, “It’s about showing the people that we matter. We must penetrate smarter. Artists are majorly proactive, but we need to sit back for a second and create more options other than hosting gallery showings. How about a laser tag art tournament? How about an art orgy? (I’m not into that, but I’m sure you get my point). We may be creatives, but we need to think better. It’s all about making art a way of life. The system will always exist, but we can rise above it. It is only when we collectively decide to be absolutely exceptional at what we do that our artistic ‘Megazord’ would light up. Keyword: DO BETTER”
Delving even further into an almost unspeakable topic, Duks describes the intersection of technology and art and how it’s a blessing and a curse.
“Now, there is a blurred line between art and gimmickry. “ He says, as a matter of fact, “Art should direct humanity’s next step. Technology has equally helped and destroyed expression. Today’s kids have access to all the art they can find in the world, and this makes works of great substance feel cheap and shallow. Everything is now monitored by phone cameras with live apps. In these times, there is little or no mystery. But I’m not certain that this is a problem; – We are at the beginning of a new era. Kids are born today with digital tablets in their hands before they are even able to read and write. I do not know if this truly is a bad thing, but it’s nice to see that expression is finally spreading its glorious tentacles across the youth, no matter how young.”
When asked about the future, here’s what Duks had to say, full of passion and belief.
“In 5 years, Africa will be the global leader in expressive online content.
New Generation Africa is aware Africa. This Africa is the harbinger of trailblazers in every field globally. This is the utopia we never thought we’d live to see. It’s finally happening. There’s never been a better time to be an expressive African child.
Love is my core and without that, without first dipping my brush in my heart, I have done nothing. Love is the nucleus of our existence, and we must worship it. We must share it. I plan to bring talented folks aboard this strange arc of mine as I move forward.
From the most I’ve seen, we all have something in common: Sharing our work in hopes of making the world smile wider.
Artists are very peculiar creatures, we demand so much respect because of the seriousness of the position we’ve been given, but we are also the most selfless. We tend to give through expression, till we can give no more. Till we cannot breathe. Nigerians are finally waking up. Maybe it’s just the young growing. But we appreciate art a lot more, all us creatives want, is to make the world happier and be blessed with the resources to continue doing us.”
Duks understanding and expression of his art is simply how he lives, understands and loves. It transcends a talent or a gift. It is more of a channeling of a life force, a spiritual undertaking.
Art demands to be felt.