"I was told that painting is for lazy people": Ajarb Bernard Ategwa from Cameroon

0
50

AzigAzig (2018) by Ajarb Bernard Ategwaimage rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

"Painting is for lazy people," said Ajarb Bernard Ategwa's father as a child. Daydreaming and scribbling in his textbooks would often scold him as a boy. The 30-year-old Cameroonian artist tells the BBC he has had the last laugh.

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

Ategwa says his vivid images of life in Cameroon's largest city, Douala, are being sold for up to £ 20,000.

He jokes that family members were raised at a higher level than he, "respect me now a lot … because I'm the most successful".

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

"It's the only thing I know to do, so painting is my life," Ategwa told the BBC. "Sometimes, when I'm angry, painting calms me down."

He has never received formal training as an artist and says that since the age of seven he has used the same bold attitude for color.

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

Although his works seem like immediate portraits of busy city life, Ategwa told BBC Focus on Africa that they are filtered to some degree of memory and imagination.

"Everyone is in my head because it's the kind of stuff I go to my workshop every day."

"I'll do a sketch before I start painting," says Ategwa about his technique. Many are of impressive size – one of his latest works is more than 2 meters high and 4 meters wide.

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

Walking through Douala "you can see many things like markets, shops, hair salons," says Ategwa.

There are also many sounds, including "Influences from Congolese music and the Ivory Coast, you can hear it everywhere."

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

An exhibition on the work of Ajarb Bernard Ategwa at the London Jack Bell Gallery has just come to an end. New works will be presented in March at the Armory Show in New York.

"I was not at school, but today I am a successful man, my pictures are shown around the world," says Ategwa.

"It's not all about education, education, education, if you have a kid who likes drawing, allow them to draw.

"Enable [young people] to follow their passion. "

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

image rights
Ajarb Bernard Ategwa / Jack Bell Gallery

All images courtesy of Jack Bell Gallery