Born in the coastal city of Cotonou, Ivie Akinwumi grew up among the tides. Her inspiration stems from the strength and power of women, specifically women of African descent, and their deep connection to water. In this segment, Ivie shares what her experience has been like as an artist and inspires us all to nurture our connections to nature and the sea.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF …
Well hello! I’m Ivie (pronounced “eve-yay”), an illustrator currently based in Rouen, France. I am Nigerian, and I grew up in Cotonou, a coastal city in the Republic of Benin. I guess this explains my love for water and all things coastal.
WHAT HAS YOUR ART JOURNEY BEEN LIKE?
I first remember falling in love with drawing when I was 5. My mother placed me on her lap, put a pencil in my tiny hands, and slowly guided my gestures on a smooth, white sheet of paper. Moments later, I had drawn my very first fashion model. And just like that, I was hooked!
I enjoyed it so much, I wanted it to be central to my life.
After my bachelor’s degree, I packed my sketch pads, heels, and motivation - moving to France to study in the hopes of becoming a fashion designer. After an art foundation year and a master’s in Fashion Creation, I drew further and further away from the kind of creative venture I had hoped for with every job I got. On top of that, drawing had completely taken a backseat in my life. It would take me another 4 years until I finally had had enough.
Then it was out with my pointed heels and in with sharp pencils as I took up drawing again. Like always, the more I drew, the more empowered I felt and the stronger my desire to fully pursue this means of self-expression. It was as if every time I returned to this artistic space, I was reminded of who I was - or at least what I truly enjoyed.
Due to these “artistic hiatuses,” I sometimes struggled with my level of competency- I wanted to be better at it. It took me a while to understand that there is no such thing as perfect art and that the ‘what’ and ‘how’ I was drawing were merely a reflection of my lived experience.
Now, I’m currently enjoying the different types of rides that come with being on a journey. The more I have embraced it, the happier and more centered I have felt.
WHAT HAS SHAPED YOU INTO WHO YOU ARE TODAY?
Even though I believe I am still being shaped every day, my early childhood years were instrumental in forming my palette. I was a Nigerian kid who grew up in a multicultural expatriate community in a French-speaking country. My parents were very open with us children and engaged us in a host of activities. I was introduced to a diverse set of cultures, languages, and interests quite early. This created quite the appetite for curiosity and adventure that I still possess today.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU/YOUR ART? (IF YOU CAN, DESCRIBE A REAL-LIFE SITUATION THAT INSPIRED YOU)
I am a visual person; I absolutely love people watching and living in my head quite a lot - daydreaming is my superpower. This was particularly useful during lockdowns and my limited access to the seasides. There were a lot of imaginary fruits that I plucked from my personal experience or conjured up entirely. Instagram is also a powerful medium from which I am able to get inspiration in times when I can’t get outdoors.
At present, I’m deeply inspired by women, particularly of African descent, who embrace and nurture their connection with water.
Much can be said about a woman who is able to submerge all voices of fear or judgment, which are sadly quite prevalent in several African communities, and embrace any body of water, claiming it as hers. She is free. And don’t get me started on the woman who rides waves. Now, that is another marvel to behold. Imagine joyously mounting the very thing you and many others are taught to fear.
My work celebrates these women, and I also hope to encourage those who are still reluctant about exploring this side of themselves. Sometimes we don’t know what’s possible until we see it.
HOW DO YOU USUALLY WORK ON PIECES? ANY SPECIFIC RITUALS?
Film scores or piano songs are my go-to when I create. No words, just pure melody - usually very melancholic, it helps me stay focused.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE AS AN ARTIST/ENTREPRENEUR?
The multitasking that comes with being an entrepreneur could be dizzying without a proper structure in place. I am working on it.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
“A boat safely anchored to the deck isn’t doing what it was built for, so do what you were made for, girl!” Wise words from my dad every time he thinks I’m chickening out of pursuing my dreams.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVORITE SURF SPOT?
At the moment, it’s Lacanau, but I hope to be able to discover more places. I’m still pretty new to surfing, so I haven’t explored enough areas to have a favourite spot.
LONGBOARD OR SHORTBOARD? WHY?
It would have to be longboards. They look so much more expressive and graceful - kind of like each person gets to dance with the ocean in their own way.
ONE THING ON YOUR « BUCKET LIST »?
I tend to be impulsive, so I would just do what I have in mind. Two things that I haven’t gotten to doing yet, though, are scuba and freediving.
I really love to sing! Did quite a bit of on-stage performances as a kid but much less in my adulthood. Starting to reconnect with this side of me again, and I am loving it!
YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?
“Life isn’t waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain” - Seneca.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD:
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to tell my story on your platform. I am such a fan of the work you are doing and the beautiful space you’ve created!
SUPPORT IVIE'S ART JOURNEY: