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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals


Chim'Di is a Nigerian artist currently based in Sheffield. She drew and wrote short stories and poetry before studying film in Blackpool. Painting offers Chim'Di much-needed freedom. She describes her paintings as abstract Afro-centric and Afro-futuristic. Her newest exhibition FAMILY PORTRAIT is currently on display at DINA.

Below is an edited version of my conversation with Chim'Di. We discussed the importance of authenticity, family and community in her journey. We also covered hopes for the future and an invitation for readers who connect with her art.

Why painting?
Whenever I write, I’m always in my head. Always making sure that I’m saying the right thing, that I’m articulate and present myself well. But my visual artwork can be weird. I don’t have to overthink. I can’t be mad at yellow for being there because there was no intention. I love to stay in control. With painting, I don’t have that control anymore. I let loose and create a world, an instance, a scenario. Painting allows me to express words and feelings whilst still being polite. ‘Cause you can’t be mad at an artwork, can you?

I started using colour by drawing with pens and pencils, but it wasn’t fast enough. Painting is very vibrant. There are no mistakes. With pencils, you can erase and perfect it, but with paint, once it goes out of line, it’s a new artwork. I leave it like that – to flow and shape itself. There are no lines, only suggestion. It’s spontaneous and casual. I let my brain rest and the body does its thing. My subconscious mind takes over.

How do you describe your work?
I’m usually very reserved. I like my privacy. My artwork shows private emotions that I generally struggle to understand. It’s how I see the world, how my brain computes the little things that are going on within itself. It’s a lot of play and goofiness that goes into it. The play comes first and the meaning comes after. I look at it, reflect and realise what it meant and what I was feeling. Sometimes I film it so I can watch myself paint and the atmosphere around it.

I once read Marvel comics and thought “I’m gonna make a comic book”. That’s when the drawing came. Then the short stories, then poetry. As a kid in Nigeria, my brothers used to come home from boarding school and tell us stories. At night, we’d sit in a circle, tell each other stories and read the Bible, which I found very enticing. I used to write the stories they told me. At family gatherings, I’d read them. As I’m telling the story, I’d start to imagine more about that character, making up the story as I go.

Storytelling has always been there. Now it’s shaping itself more into this poetic storytelling through painting.

You’re currently touring your new exhibition FAMILY PORTRAIT. What’s FAMILY PORTRAIT about? What’s your philosophy behind it?
FAMILY PORTRAIT is about realisation, communication, and growth. It embodies newness and development. It’s a representation of my journey from Nigeria to England. Coming here with my family, growing up, while refusing to change my ideology. I took a hard look at myself and acknowledged the need to let go of the blissfulness that comes from ignorance. It’s frightening to grow and explore without hiding behind people, images and facades.

The exhibition is a progression piece starting with the future I desire. Getting there requires that I acknowledge my journey so far. The happy times with my family and the moments when I was adventurous and interested in life. The times when I was shying away from situations. The times when I was ignorant and hurtful, trying to blame the world for everything.

Grandmas Shadow is in memory of my grandmothers. My dad’s mum passed away earlier last year. As a child, I always had them around and thought they will always be there. I haven’t been back to Nigeria since I came to the UK. Losing a grandmother with whom I haven’t had the relationship I wished I did and not knowing how to understand it. I know I’ve lost someone with wisdom who could teach me a lot, someone I could have a conversation with. I remember going to the village when I was little. She yelled at my dad’s older brother because he smacked his kid. He didn't dare to speak back. I am in awe of that power dynamic. The respect for the oldest person in the household. I had to make something to embody them. This is a portrait of them, honouring them. Not forgotten people. It’s also about taking time to build relationships with family and community members. No man is an island. I’ve learned that the hard way. I’m so grateful to my family that I never felt alone.

Welcome Home, from FAMILY PORTRAIT

What are your plans for the future?
I want to take FAMILY PORTRAIT to more cafes in Sheffield and outside Sheffield. I'm looking for spaces that embody community spirit and connection. People who understand the journey to grow into yourself.

I plan to keep connecting with others. I want the artwork to find those who relate. It’s an open invitation. If you genuinely feel something about it, drop me a message. Let’s work together. Let’s collaborate. I’ve always wanted to work with like-minded people on projects. It doesn’t have to lead anywhere. Let’s shoot a silly film and have fun with the process. It doesn't have to be something we show off, something concrete. Let’s share ideas. FAMILY PORTRAIT is not my end goal.

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