BUILDING YOUNGER CREATIVES WITH MATTHIAS ARAGBADA
Matthias Aragbada was born in Kaduna but hails from Epe in Lagos. A Fine and Applied Arts graduate of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Aragbada works across drawing, painting, illustration, animation, graphic design and motion graphics, photography and filmmaking. Inspired by his rich multi-cultural experiences, he is founder and Creative Director of Dudutoonz Studios, set up to celebrate the creativity inherent in ‘Black’ people, as dudu is the Yoruba word for black.
Aragbada has over 10 years working experience in the media communication industry and has completed several branding projects, music videos, television commercials and documentaries for reputable multinational companies, individuals, advertising agencies and entertainment houses. He also trains young people who he sees as the future, at his Dudutoolz Academy Digital Art School. He created the trophy for the music awards Hip-hop world now called the Headies. Recently, Aragbada shot and directed his first short film Providence, a period paranormal thriller co-produced with Silver Pitch Studios. The short has been accepted for screening at national and international film festivals like the Real Time Film Festival, Nigeria, Afro Film Festival Ananse in Columbia, Lake International Poetry and Film Festival in Kenya and Fright Night Film Festival in Louisiana. It has also been been selected to screen and is in competition for Best Short Film at The African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) taking place this November in Lagos.
When did you know you were going to be an artist, did you have family support or did creative people in your family inspire you?
From childhood, the excitement I derived from art was deep. I knew I could not live outside of the relationship. Therefore, I knew from a tender age that I was born an artist. My eldest brother was my first inspiration; always drawing portraits. My parents, especially my mum, also supported my art.
Why are you so Afrocentric?
Every artist including me draws inspiration from his or her environment. I grew up realizing how Africa has been kept in the dark, especially her art, and so I took it upon myself to promote her with my art and heart. She is all I have for inspiration, I simply represent my source.
You are involved in several fields of the visual arts, photography and motion pictures. Which do you find more fulfilling and challenging and how do you find a balance between them all?
I consider myself an art explorer; I indulge myself in different kinds of art at any time, to contribute my quota, inspire someone or people and also prove to myself that I can achieve a certain quality. I don’t think any art is easy; they all come with varying skill dynamics and principles, but I enjoy every bit of my research and victories. I believe at the end of my exploration, painting will be the return point of production.
Who inspires you and do you have any mentors?
Many works inspire me; those by legends, seniors, colleagues and even younger artists. I can’t say I have mentors but there are many artists who I respect greatly.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Inspiration for me comes from virtually anything and everything around; food, people, scent, family, movies or gestures.
What was the reason behind establishing a digital art academy?
Getting into the art industry was difficult for me because I was clueless about what to do or where to go, so I decided to create a platform for younger artists who find themselves in the same situation. I try to enlighten them on how to build their career in art.
Is it a recognized entity or just an informal school and is it affiliated to any established institution?
No, the academy is not affiliated to any institution and like I said earlier, it’s like a career preparatory school, designed to focus on real art business issues and not just skill acquisition.
You have worked with several multinationals, top advertising agencies and Nigerian brands. Which project has been the most memorable?
I am not sure I can pick out any particular project over the others because each has its own unique beauty and rigour.
What unique selling point or particular style do you think stands you out across the different fields you work in?
What inspired your ‘legends and celebrity’ pen portrait series?
Social media. I wanted to create art content that would cut across.
You recently shot and directed your first short film. How did you achieve this and why a paranormal period thriller as the genre?
My friend, Michael and I, spend a lot of time watching and analyzing international films. This made us want to influence the film industry in our own little way. We were not particular about a genre, but the story is an extract from a true-life occurrence, which we modified into a 12.42- minute short film and submitted to several international film festivals. It was heartwarming to see one’s work appreciated internationally as the film has been selected for screening at 5 festivals; Fright Night Film Festival, Louisiana, Afro Film Festival, Ananse, Columbia, Lake International Poetry and Film Festival, Kenya,the maiden edition of the Real-time Film Festival,Lagos and The African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) taking place this November in Nigeria.
What are the major differences between filming shorts, commercials and music videos?
Shooting shorts comes with a lot of planning to get the most effective way of expressing emotions within a short time. The same goes for commercials, but music videos run on engaging the viewer even if they say nothing. Deciding and modifying even on the set is much easier with music videos than shorts or commercials because of their flexibility.
Are you going to continue working in film and are we to expect an animated movie, full-length feature film or TV series soon?
We are working on a series at the moment and definitely will do a feature afterwards. I don’t think Nigeria is ready for an animated feature, but I hope to someday produce and direct one of mine.
What are your expectations for your short, Providence and are you working on any new project?
In giving Providence the utmost visibility, my expectations are that it will shape my understanding of Nigerian and international audience perception through film reviews, before producing a feature. I am also working with Michael on a series.
Can you share some success tips with people who wish to work in the visual arts?
Stay true to your art and heart, even if no one can see it yet. Trust me, it will mature beautifully.
Matthias Aragbada with the Headies trophy he designed.
January 15, 2021
January 14, 2021