Artist, curator, and yoga tutor aka mindfulness queen, Stacey Okparavero, known as Stacey Ravvero in the Lagos art scene is a rolling ball of many shades. She is young, savvy, and unconventional. Through her Instagram account ‘Yoga with Stacey’, she advocates for mindful living and shares lots of striking meditative-acrobatic postures that are a dream for rigid bodies on this side of the globe. In spite of her love for Yoga, art comes first. Yoga is only a way of life that helps her art to be more fluid.
In our conversation with Stacey, yoga life, curating, making the final list of the 2015 National Art Competition, feminism and her recent performance “La puissance du toucher” in Dakar come up amongst other digging into her recent projects, educational background and plans for the near future.
TSA: How would you describe your journey as an artist?
My journey has been experimental. I have explored new media, and worked on major art works I never thought I was capable of doing. It has been exciting because of the possibilities that present itself every time I have a breakthrough with new pieces.
TSA: After schooling in the Uk and France, you returned to Nigeria to practice, has it been challenging working and living in Lagos?
Of course! Living in Lagos is hectic because it lacks basic infrastructure, and what I have struggled with the most is the attitude of people that tolerate the mediocrity dished out in the name of, “It is Nigeria jare.” We can’t grow with the same old mentality. Commuting to the studio is a drag and materials are super expensive. However, I am thankful for the inspiration I can always draw from Lagos and the super talented artists. I am excited to collaborate with them and even more, the blossoming art community.
TSA: What projects have you worked on since then?
I have been working on a show titled, “Feminism isn’t a dirty word” for a while now, and that is still being refined. I am excited to show the new collection of my work for this exhibition. I have also been working on the Woman Wonder series with the help of Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya, who has been most supportive in ways I cannot begin to wrap my head around! I am super thankful!
TSA: What prompted making a series on “Feminism isn’t a dirty word”?
Because everytime the word feminism or feminist is brought up on social media, it is shut down, poked and proded. Most men perceive it as anti-man, and they are defensive because of the baggage the term carries. Through the series, I am attempting to demystify and unpack that baggage, and create an avenue for the term to be discussed without the preconceived notions it carries. I am also highlighting struggles women face in a patriarchal society, struggles that are often overlooked as a “norm” or unimportant.
TSA: On projects, you were recently in Dakar and participated in the Suba Biennale. You described your performance as really wonderful and moving, could you share what happened with us?
Absolutely! The title is “La puissance du toucher” which means, the power of touch. It was an interactive artwork that relayed touch into a masterpiece. The participants were invited to draw with their fingers on my bare back while I looked inwards, and replicated what was being drawn unto a canvas. The power of touch is significant, as I come in contact with an external force in order to feel or experience a sensation. I was looking to explore the sense of ‘touch and transfer’ by feeling beyond the touch, then interpret what was communicated by the participants; connecting my mind and body quite literally, as well as producing a tangible and visual representation of the experience with various colors. It was a profound experience because it was very experimental. Prior to that, I had no idea of what to expect, but there is just something powerful about connecting deeply with people and giving them access to the creative process, allowing them to be an integral part of the work.
TSA: Aside being an artist, you also work as a curator. Was this part of your training and education as an artist?
Yes, I did an M.A. in History and Business of the Contemporary Art Market. This gave me valuable insight on curating as well as understanding the dynamics of the art market both globally and locally.
TSA: What projects have you worked on as a curator?
I have worked on several exhibitions in the past but the most current is my work at the Suba Bienniale show during the 2016 Dakar Biennial with Salimata Diop. Also worked with her on projects at the Africa Centre in London.
TSA: Another interesting find about you is your practice as a yoga tutor. How do you juggle that with being an artist and a curator? How did you get into yoga in the first place?
I guess I do have to prioritize my time a lot. What I struggled with for the most part of setting up Yoga with Stacey is balancing my persona and brand. I did not want to be associated only with yoga to the detriment of my art career, because art for me is my priority. Yoga has helped fuel my instinct and creativity, and both feed into each other. So both being very important, I found a balance that works for me by simultaneously promoting both. I got into yoga out of curiosity and necessity. I had been researching natural remedies for asthma and stumbled across yoga for asthma. I had heard and even experimented with yoga many years back, but I was not hooked till later. My mentor and friend, Sam Ovraiti, who is also an artist, gifted me my first yoga DVDs and books, then it began to grow on me.
TSA: From your account ‘Yoga with Stacey’. We perceive that you want people to embrace this lifestyle that revolves around yoga. How do you want to achieve this and why is it important to you?
Yes. I dream of a society that is stress free and community oriented; filled with positive energy and good vibes. With one person at a time, a community develops. Not many people know the benefits or embrace yoga but as much as possible, with the help of the blossoming community of yogis and supporters, it will become widely accepted. Beyond yoga even, it is more about coming together as people to share and invest in the ‘self’, and learning acceptance and kindness in a society that sadly embraces too many vices.
It is important to me because, it is scary the things that are propagated on mainstream media as norms now. Women’s rights are trivialized, children are exploited, decency is neglected and so much hate is spread. I think yoga helps the human mind to reflect and reset to how we were made; our instinct to be kind, to love, to protect one another, to accept each other and embrace our differences.
If many more people find themselves, the world will be a better place to live in.
TSA: Does Yoga help you to work better? Does it reflect in the subjects you create, or are these two different areas of your life that do not intersect?
It helps a lot! It fuels my creativity when I have artists block due to stress, and sometimes lack of inspiration. Even more, it expands the boundaries of my mind and it reflects in my works.
TSA: You were selected one of the finalists for the National Art Competition in 2015, tell us about the work you put in for the final competition?
The work is titled, “Back to back”. It is a performance piece that marries different media and expands the boundaries of artistic expression. It drew inspiration from performance, music, spoken word and sculpture. It highlighted the effects of social media on this generation, with reference to pop culture.
TSA: Did it affect you in any way that you didn’t win? Are there other competitions you have participated in?
Oh! I was bummed I didn’t win, but I was super happy for the winners. It was a huge project and more than anything, the fact that it is mine and I made it blows my mind every time. So I am glad I had the opportunity to create such work because now, I am attempting things I never dared, which is exciting.
TSA: What are you working on at the moment? You mentioned experimenting with water colour and relief in a discussion recently, how is that going? Will there be an exhibition soon?
I am working on the “Phoenix: From Dark to Day” collection, I cannot wait to exhibit it, it is raw, deep and draws from……. Wait and you’ll see! There will be many exhibitions soon.
TSA: What comments have you received about your art in general, do you mind sharing?
I have had different comments from established artists to curators, to critics, and it has been insightful. I recall Dr Bruce Onobrakpeya encouraging me to “explore these lines”. He was fascinated by my line and form collection that really started as idle sketches. From his feedback, I developed them into a collection that is really exciting, and I am pushing the boundaries of the sketches. Also recently, I was engaged in an artistic dialogue with Victor Ehikhamenor, who is a fantastic artist. He advised me to explore a technique and build on it, such that anywhere it is seen, it can be identified as a Stacey Ravvero piece. It was a timely advice because I have been working on this, and did not want to limit myself to one medium. I definitely found a way to cut across multimedia and still have a resonating subject.
TSA: What is your typical day like as an artist and a yoga tutor?
A typical day varies. On the days I teach yoga, it starts with my personal yoga flow and meditation, I go to teach and after that I settle in and work on some sketches. On other days, I head to the studio, work all day and after the day’s work, settle in at home with some restorative yin yoga.
All featured images courtesy of the artist, Stacey Ravvero.