Maputo revisited: layered algorithms …

Afopefoluwa during the creative process in Maputo.

While this year’s Maputo Fast Forward festival of creativity, design and innovation takes place, People’s Stories Project is reflecting on the words and work of a selection of artists who were part of last year’s ColabNowNow phase of this Mozambique-located digital event. 

We continue with Afopefoluwa Ojo, an innovative artist from Lagos.  Her vertigo series of words and images is a ‘generative art piece’ exploring the relationship a woman has with her body, her reproduction, her sex or the lack of it. It began life as a collaboration between family members, as well as a midwife (Tolu Aire) who provided access for Afopefoluwa to document pregnant women in Nigeria through a Lagos-located NGO. With all the material she gathered, Afopefoluwa travelled to Mozambique in 2018, for the Maputo phase of ColabNowNow, where she created the final iteration of the series using text and poetry that merged with a digital piece that now exists online.

How did the idea to include text within the vertigo series come about?

The idea for the text came from me. I had created vertigo at a time when I was investigating my womanhood and its woes, and by extension the universal womanhood. The text came months after I had produced and exhibited vertigo, it came at a time when I had begun to lose my fascination with womanhood, and to question my place in that biological, philosophical, and political space that womanhood takes up. It came at a time when I decided I was not a woman, at least not every day. 

finding vertigo

Where was Finding Vertigo shot? In my home in Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, where I lived with my mother and father (occasionally), my three sisters, and Kiara, our pet and long-time friend and sister. Our home had become so familiar to us that our initial reaction to embarking on creating something would always be to look outside for something shiny. But for vertigo, I wanted to use our home, where we had lived all our lives.

Who is the model and how easy (or challenging) was it for you to direct the shoot? She’s my sixteen-year-old sister, Tanitoluwa Ojo, who is an actual model. My other sister Oluwatide Ojo, photographer and filmmaker, also collaborated with me on this shoot. It was wonderful to direct. I begged my neighbours from across the street for flowers and watched the kind guard hack thorny branches to produce colourful flowers for me. I thanked him profusely and gave him money as a token of my appreciation, which he rejected with utmost goodwill. I filled our bathtub with water, dressed my youngest sister in my bikini and told them we were ready to create. 

Is her expression conveying a particular mood? I told her to give me birth pangs, and pregnancy vibes. I told her I wanted less sexiness, and more birthing, a bringing forth. If there is any sexiness in her eyes, which I can see very clearly, and which I love, it is as a result of who she is as a person. She’s always had these deep sunken eyes that could relay a thousand messages in one breath but seeing this is also a result of my fascination, and love for her, as a person, and as my sister. 

How intentional are the use of colours and textures? Very intentional. I am always drawn to pinkish, lilac, orange hues. I would later see photographer Maisie Cousins’ work at the Foam Exhibition in Amsterdam and think ‘yes, yes this is it.’

what if vertigo?

How did you create this translucent effect for What if vertigo? It looks like layering. Is that correct? Yes, it’s a sort of layering, and it’s all done with an algorithm, which I created in Maputo Mozambique, with assistance from Dr.Tegan Bristow, and with a programming language called Processing. If I’m being honest vertigo is an algorithm that layers itself, and everything else becomes the sources fed into this algorithm so that it can do the work it was created to do.  

vertigo, fecundity; on words that should be other things

Have you used your own body here? It’s a model. It was shot in our bathtub.

It looks like very sensual collage. Was that your intention? It was. There are two names I call myself to myself. One is mountain goat, the other is sensual motherfucker. Because I find that I not only experience things and objects and life as aesthetic objects, but it’s as though I pass everything through a sensual filter, which could be my body, or my eyes, or my senses, or my sensibilities. I am a sensual motherfucker, hence most things I create would find themselves assuming this form. 

What emotion(s) does the image give you?Fear. I judge myself too harshly, and when I put things into the world and watch them become an object of other people’s judgement, I am consumed by an irrational fear. I have to remind my ego to rest. So what if it becomes an object of another’s judgement? Yet this image in particular, makes me feel like I can do anything. 

forgetting vertigo

This video seems to echo your earlier image, what is vertigo? Is that correct? Yes it is. If you stay with this work long enough, you watch it transform to various things before your eyes, the hues change, intensity changes, colours shift. This work echoes vertigo, and it is vertigo, just as the other work is, but a further stage of vertigo.

Do you ultimately see yourself as a writer as well as an artist?  I don’t really know about titles. I am a writer, a software engineer, and an artist. All three on good days. 

All images courtesy of Afopefoluwa Ojo

Maputo Fast Forward (MFF) takes place from 10th October – 10th November. The theme this year is Identity and Mobility in the 21st Century.

The ColabNowNow exhibition launches on 10th October with a selection of new artists and storytellers from across Africa.