MoyoAfrika has decided to take you on a journey through Africa, through its many and diverse talents, by offering you a series of interviews with young creatives on the continent. We want to show you the diversity of our cultures, the innumerable talents on the continent and how our young people use new technologies to showcase their creative minds.
Africa has a youth bulge; at least 40% of our population consists of the youth. Creativity and innovation are the best tools the youth have at their disposal to chart a new path for their respective countries. Our main goal is to showcase the upcoming artists and give them the exposure they deserve.
For the first interview, we met Ouattara Moussa Idriss Mahaman as known as O’kiins Howara. He is an Ivorian, self-taught photographer and student of communication. His main working tool is his smartphone.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I am Ouattara Moussa Idriss Mahaman at the civil status and O’kiins Howara artist name, Ivorian, self-taught photographer and communication student. Art is perhaps in me because I tried to draw with music and even writing but I think that photography remains the universe where I feel really comfortable. I’ve been doing photography for almost a year now with a collective exhibition to my credit, following a competition of the gallery the rotunda of arts. I work exclusively with my smartphone or that of some buddy but only smartphones.
In the beginning (even if I’m still a beginner), I was doing the retouching with an application I had on my phone because I didn’t have a computer to work with. Then I saw a buddy using “Lightroom“, I asked him what it was, he explained and showed me the basics and I trained myself. Of course, I am still learning.
Why “Okiinshowara” and what is the story behind your brand?
There really is no particular story behind O’kiins Howara which is first O’kiins and Howara. the O’kiins I adopted it in my teenage period where I still had a few feet in rap so the name stayed. Howara, it is in a discussion between my parents in the Koulango dialect (a dialect of the northeast of the ivory coast) I heard a word and I turned it into Howara, but I think it’s from a good source.
Can you explain to us how was your first exposition to photography?
My first exposition was following a competition of a gallery here in Abidjan which focused on the theme of Tomorrow Africa, the experience was dope. I had an open mind on other universes that I did not really know, I have met professionals from other artistic fields with whom I have learned a little more because life is always about learning and seeking knowledge. But my very first photo was that landscaper and I was more in black and white, it is as the learning progressed I started using patterns and especially used colors, But I always take black and white photos, it stays beautiful and it transmits more emotions.
Who were your early influences?
My first influences were my surroundings and they continue to be so today. There is also the landscape and my way of seeing the world and my discoveries. But I didn’t have an idol or a model to follow I do what I feel and according to my way of understanding things.
What is your work process like? Where do you start? Where do you get your ideas?
My working process is first to have the idea, then I contact a friend, we find a place together and start working. Ideas come from everywhere, from what I see, hear or feel for me to realize a work of art, you have to feel it first, live it. An idea can come even from this interview, you just have to bring the artistic touch and everything is done. Then I do the retouching, often I go to a friend’s house for retouching because I often have problems with my computer, but I do all this with passion, I like what I do.
What do you want your work to reflect as an image, what message do you want to convey?
The image that my work must reflect is Life, peace, and love I want that through my work some people find taste in life, have a certain inner peace My message is to transmit and value the culture, the tradition, spoken of a certain fact of actuality. For me the culture or the tradition is the root of any development it is a light that we have in us.
What are your particularities and your unique selling point as an Ivorian creative?
My particularity, I would say the black culture spirit that drives me to do better with what we have, however small it may be, is the authenticity, the spirit and the history behind each creation.
We all know sometimes creatives have a creative block, what do you do when you run out of creativity?
When I lack creativity or inspiration, I don’t force it. Otherwise, the rendering will be meaningless and false in all its creative process, so when I lack inspiration I really don’t force it. I listen to music, I listen to the people or I just stay there looking at the landscape to hope to have something but without really forcing it.
Do you incorporate your Art into other parts of your life?
Yes, it is part of my life, I very often find certain things in my life so I don’t have to incorporate it into my life it is already a part of my life.
We know you live in Ivory Coast, what is it like being a young creative in your country and what are your daily struggles as a young Ivorian creative?
To be a young creative person in Ivory Coast is to be a nobody, even if things are starting to change little by little but Ivorian people do not consume art at all, from the photographer to the painter, from the stylist to the sculptor. So the creative part is not put forward enough, the difficulties are mainly the lack of space to express what we do. There are certainly galleries but this is minimal compared to the plethora of young creatives who want to show their expertise, personally apart from the lack of space as I said I do not really encounter difficulties because I work with everything I have although I aim for greater means.
I do not complain at all, I adapt to everything I find.
What is your dream Goal?
My goal is, first of all, to make my work known, that people understand my work. I would also like to have a symposium on photography and videography with some patrons or experts and even some brands of smartphones to develop and exchange on some topics concerning the field. I would like to work with big African names of the cultural world and why not non-African people too.
What are your favorite kinds of photography?
I like artistic photography, fashion photography even if I don’t do it.
Finally, what other photographers/creatives do you like?
In photography, I like Dapper Lou, Joshua Kissi, Prince Jyesi, Temi Coker who is a graphic designer and photographer, Trevor Stuurman.
There’s also boubou design (a Senegalese artist), Miss Coke, Obou Painter, and many others. I’m interested in everything and I’d like to learn graphic design too.