Xoxa Icha is an artist in every sense of the word and she expresses herself through various mediums. From producing content for BBC to running her own art business, she is definitely a creative worth meeting. Enjoy
- Who is Xoxa?
This question has such a strange effect on me. It sort of messes me up thinking of what to say. I never really know how to answer it…
If it’s ok to be honest, the truth is, I’m still getting to know who I am…I know what I am. Who I am, I guess if you don’t mind waiting it out with me, we would find out together. Let’s hope the rest of the interview helps us get a little closer to the answer.
- What was growing up like for you?
Growing up for me was good… no really good. The more people I meet, the more I know and appreciate the fact that growing up for me was really good. I know that now more than ever. Looking back, there are things that I think I may have wanted a bit differently, but overall, I know that all of it is a part of the me that is here now and I’m grateful. A good foundation isn’t common these days. I’m really privileged to have had one.
- What was your first creative outlet?
I guess it must have been seeing my parents, who are/ were both such creative people in different respects. My dad built a lot of the stuff in the house, it made home unique, I guess. The décor in our home was reflective of their creativity. Old photos tell the tales but I can remember a lot of it. So yeah…my parents were the first open window to creativity. I started out tracing pictures through transparent paper and colouring them in. I went from there to copying pictures that I was interested in. I drew cartoon characters and things from story books. Drawing from inside my head (as I used to call it) was tough…for a while. I could never really let it out.
Then art classes, art clubs and excursions…and time came along to help.
- What do you do and why?
I make art. Many kinds of art. Mostly impossible art. My expression has been called that before…’impossible’. I do it because I can’t help it! It consumes me from the inside out. People pay me for what that consumption produces. The money is good…very good. I mean I live in the capital city! But it’s about so much more than getting paid. Those lines I draw…in the colours I choose, those are parts of me I give out and no stated amount can afford that.
- Asah-Bara, BBC… the juggling game.
This is one of those things that I can write a book about. Working at the BBC, depending on which side of the coin you are on, is demanding to say the least. Working in production in the way that the BBC does it is not at all for the faint hearted. It’s been an almost 9-year long journey. Inside, there’s been a knowing that this won’t be my forever. I guess knowing and understanding clearly what my dream is has done a lot to help me juggle all those very heavy balls. An average day would be me working from 9 till well past 5 at The BBC, coming home changing clothes and getting straight to work on my art. Sometimes, it would mean finishing up as quickly as I could at the office to come home and work on my art- work all night and be at work when the sun comes up. I would be at bazaars on the weekends and back in the office on Monday delivering excellent content [and I’m not just saying].
I’ve been accused of working too hard and not having time for fun. When I look at what their readily available definitions of fun are, I choose over all that the success I am steadily becoming.
Turning out art in different forms, both for the BBC and for Asah-Bara has done so much to show me my deep-rooted strength as a woman and has gone a long way in building my spirit.
There A little while ago, I would have had to politely pass this question as my contract with the BBC would have made it difficult to answer considering that it would be a published interview.
After nearly 9 years of working with the BBC, I was glad to resign my job in December of 2016. I’m looking forward to the challenge of new journey of building my dreams with these two hands…literally.
- What Birthed Asah-Bara and what does the name mean?
I get this all the time. It usually follows a series of questions targeted at my colourful background and where it is that I come from. The name I was given sort of seems to scream south African. I won’t lie, that has helped a bit in some situations. Ok. Focus…dot deviate. ‘Asah’ and ‘Bara’ are two separate words. They are both ancient Hebrew words. They both mean ‘to -make’ but in two different contexts. ‘Asah’ is the ancient Hebrew word for the creative power of man. That is, the ability to make things from what God has provided. ‘Bara’ is the ancient Hebrew word for the creative power of God the Father, the master Creator. That is, His ability to create from nothing. He says ‘be’ and it becomes. That is ‘Bara’. My love for ancient Hebrew drew me to seek and find these words and exactly what they meant. Putting them together made perfect sense to me because as far as I am concerned, that is what design is! The union between ideas [ that only God can give] and the basic things He has made available to us to implement those ideas… that’s what births design! You can come up with the coolest idea [that’s The God factor in you at work] for a chair, for instance. The chair needs to be made from something. Whatever that chair is to be built out of has its origins somewhere among the things that God gave us on Earth. So, I put the words together across a hyphen. There you have it: Asah-Bara!
I believe that this name is completely inspired by the Holy Spirit [ I’m a born again Christian and I stand unashamed].
The journey to this name and how it came is gist for another day.
- What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur and tackling them…
In a country like Nigeria, where basically nothing but your spirit works…di challenge plenty! Yes please…read it in pigin. I believe in quality, but Nigeria and the general Nigerian mindset is so abused that even bad work looks acceptable. When it comes to me doing my craft, no questions there. The wahalla starts when other people get involved and you need to manage poor work ethic, no respect for deadlines…bad work and having to hear that I can ‘manage it’. The strength to tackle it comes from knowing where I am going and being determined to stand out of the overwhelming crowd. Coming down to the general mediocre level of work service in Nigeria is not an option. I would rather quit. If I’m doing it, it must be done excellently well…and believe me, I’m doing it! That’s the Spirit of God at work in me. I can’t take the credit.
- What are the greatest lessons in life from your personal experiences over the years?
-The world will challenge everything you think you are. It takes a lot to be the original you in a world full of copies. […and they say cloning humans hasn’t worked yet. Story…]
– What makes you different, is what makes you beautiful
– Who you are on the inside matters more than anything else on the outside. You’re locked up with that person when everything/one else goes away and they all do.
– Don’t ever pretend, the real you must come out… eventually.
– Good friends…true friends are very hard to come by in this world
- Who is The most inspiring person in your life and in what way
Omo! abeg, make we leave dis one. I don talk taya and the questions wey remain still plenty! Lol.
- Which three people do you look up to in the creative industry….
I’ve been dreading answering this question considering that there really isn’t anyone doing what I am doing. I’m sorry to say it but I don’t really have a role model in the creative industry. We hardly have a solid creative industry as per hand-made work and visual art. Music and film yes, but visual art and true hand-made original work…naah. There are a few, but not enough to make an economic mark or a global mark. I’ve done a lot of research about creative industries and the impact they can have on a nation economically…believe me, we don’t really have a creative industry here…so role models, I haven’t found yet. O wait, Nike Davies Okundaye …She has my deepest respect.
- Ultimate goal in life…
*singing* I wanna be a millionaire, so freaking baaad’…
No, but seriously, [I still want to be a millionaire but…no wait, I’m already a millionaire! I need new aspirations!] I want to be a force that will drive the hand-made industry in this country. It’s a huge thing…some days it looks impossible, like this country is too hurt and too broken to bother about art when the basics are not even in place. I pray I have the strength and the grace to see it happen in my lifetime. I really want to see our culture and heritage restored to a place of everyday pride, not ceremonial entertainment.
- Top three things on my bucket list
I don’t have a bucket list…hmmm. I wonder why I don’t have a bucket list. Did I say that out loud? I don’t want to think up something for the sake of an answer, really don’t have a bucket list and I’m not sure why.
- The soundtrack for where I am in my life….
My mental play list is scrambling…I know literally thousands of songs… even music without words. This is too hard to dig through abeg. Forgive me if I pass. This is me passing. Ok. I have passed.
- Greatest achievement
I’m not sure it has happened yet. That’s why too many options are reeling through my head searching for an answer. An answer does come to mind though. It would probably not rank as an achievement in the eyes of the world [then again, it just might], but it was an achievement that in many ways keeps the wind in my sails and keeps my head lifted and shoulders back. I won a quiet war. It meant as much as it did 2 years ago when it happened as it means now. I know an appropriate opportunity to talk about it will come. I will be patient till then.
For the sake of not walking away from this question without a clear answer, I would say my greatest achievement was my first solo and maiden exhibition- ‘The Whispers of the Weave’ show. It totally sold out and had over 700 visitors over four days. It was the official launch of the Asah-Bara brand.