Benjamin Abana: an Artist refining his art
His calm nature could fool you into into thinking he would rather skip the chit-chat and get on with business, his art.This could not be further from the truth. I met Benjamin on a sunny day in his Copenhagen basement studio, I was positively surprised by how calm and open he was. I was also in awe of the type of work displayed around.
“School leaves less room for play and that is sad”
What started out as a formal interview ended up being a conversation both enlightening and eye opening in what it means to be an artist and to love your work.
MBP: What is your cultural background?
BA: I am Nigerian- Danish. My dad is Nigerian and my mom is Danish.
MBP: What is your educational and professional background?
BA: I am an artist.
I do not have what one would call a formal education at an art school but I always drew a lot as a child. At some point I wanted to be film animator. I applied at an animation school back then in Viborg, Jutland but was not accepted, the reason being: I was not technically precise in my drawings and this was one of the requirements.
This lead me to move to Copenhagen. I attended a youth education where I got the chance to take a course in animation, sadly the school shut down a month after I had started. I also had gained more experience working as store manager which gave me some business insight that has become a valuable skill to have as an independent artist.
MBP: So you have managed to create a path for yourself around the educational school system?
BA: Yes, sometimes the experiences one has earlier on in life could prove a valuable guidance when one decides to choose a career path later on. So, the experiences and skills I had acquired then have become very useful in what I do today. I feel that school leaves less room for play which is sad. “You can always work your way up”.
MBP: Has it always been an ambition to become an artist?
BA: No, never.
MBP: How does the future look like for you as an artist? Do you hope to leave any legacy behind?
BA: I have one ambition, that is to really master my art and signature. I am still learning to work with abstract motifs. I look up to artists like Michael Angelo, Da Vinci for inspiration because they mastered their art.
I hope to combine what I learn with what I do currently. My Nigerian- Danish background has made me curious about African arts. My future goal is to incorporate African arts in my work, specifically Nigerian art.
Nigeria is so rich in traditional arts so my legacy would be to incorporate the Nigerian arts in my own work to produce exceptional pieces of high standard and quality That is the legacy I would like leave behind.
MBP: Are there any challenges that you come across as black male artist?
BA: I feel like people of colour in general have to work harder to achieve the same level of recognition as their white counterparts who are doing the same. I am not sure if people are aware. It is difficult to penetrate the Danish Elite within the arts.
MBP: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
BA: If you look at classic art through time. It´s all white subjects painted or portrayed. So there is a gap of documenting black people or people of colour without making a political statement but then everything is political, right? In one of my works I chose to paint Nina Simone for a tribute concert by singer Maria Thandie recently held in Copenhagen.
MBP: Is being an artist a lonely profession?
BA: It does not bother me to be alone but it is also good to network. I have managed to build a base of network that sometimes proven to be valuable with regards to selling my art. So I know networking is also important. Social media, Instagram is also my way of networking. I am actually bad at mingling. I share this studio with a fellow artist and it is nice to have someone to exchange and share ideas with.
MBP: Do you exhibit your work?
BA: I normally exhibit Bornholm.
MBP: What is the future like for Benjamin Abana.
BA: One of my personal goals was to acquire a drivers licence which gives me access and freedom to transport my art whenever I have exhibitions. I have achieved that goal.
MBP: Is there anything you would like to share with us that we should know regarding your work as an artist.
BA: I am Nigerian, I would like to research a lot about my African heritage. I would also like to know more about other African tribes and their art, this could be their symbols, arts and sculptors that I would like translates in my work at some point.
For more on Benjamin´s work please check Benjamin.abana. artist on instagram and on facebook .