In the latest article collaboration between Wales Arts Review and The Western Mail, Andrew Ogun charts his journey from humble beginnings to a life of explosive creativity in his work as fashion designer, musical artist, author, poet, activist, and Agent for Change with Arts Council of Wales.
One of the earliest memories I have of engaging with anything artistically is staring at the ‘19-2000’ music video by Gorillaz on MTV on one of those ancient big boxy TVs, my mouth agape. I couldn’t quite grasp how two of my favourite things in the world – music and cartoons — could combine with each other like that. I was completely mesmerised. I couldn’t have been any older than seven or eight at the time, and I always note this moment as having a profound effect on me. In a way, the interdisciplinary approach that Gorillaz took to their music is one that I have also taken in my own artistry, as well as an appreciation and a reverence for innovation. More importantly, though, I think this moment also taught me to trust my imagination.
People laugh when I tell them I was totally bonkers as a kid, but I was and I say it without any humour or hyperbole but it was due to very valid reasons; I had just moved to a country that was completely alien to me. I actually came to Wales from Italy but for reasons that go beyond the scope of this article, we had to claim asylum here as if we were fleeing a civil war in Nigeria, and so me and my family entered Wales as asylum seekers. My twin sisters, Brandy and Brenda, were diagnosed with global development delay and autism and we were told that they would never have a so-called ‘normal’ life. I could not speak a word of English (Italian was my first language) and I was beginning to experience all the anxieties and questions that came with having an absent father. As a result of all this, I was a very taciturn and insular kid who had to rely on the inner world rather than the external one for guidance and for sense-making. In these periods of my life, my imagination was my best friend. I would daydream of being a WWE wrestler or being a cowboy or being a poet or being Michael Jackson (in that order). Imagination is what gave me the breathing space to escape the bleakness of my predicament.
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