Clement Colors, one of the most talented painters in Kaduna City sat down with Kada News Magazine for an exclusive interview on the program, Kaduna Faces. He opens up about his painting, his career and his journey to the top.
Meeting the Man
I am Clement Colors and I adopted “The Rainbow Man” for myself because I come from the most colorful part of Kaduna State, my name Clement has seven letters, just like Nigeria and U/Magero where I am from. Rainbow has seven colors and seven letters; I was born on the 7th day of the 7th month so I feel perfect because 7 also signify perfection. (laughs)
That is, by the way, I studied Mathematics at the University of Maiduguri but I am here now making artworks for a living because it has always been my passion and hobby. I used to play football before I took up arts full time. I dropped that because this is where my heart is, this is what I love doing and people appreciate it and admire my work. I have been doing this for more than ten years and I have had no regrets. I am still giving all the glory to God Almighty because it is not about how long I have been at the job, my skills, or the way i look that have brought me success. I hope to produce more and to move the world with it.
Discovering the Painting Talent
They say the voice of the people is the voice of the lord. From primary school, I realized I was good at Fine Arts. All of my mates and teachers would talk about how good my work was and tell me I was the best. My friends would ask me to help them with their assignments and projects and I helped them willingly because I was enjoying myself. I never assumed I would make money from it not to talk of making it my career.
In secondary school, I realized that I could mold, sculpt and do a lot of other art related things other than painting. I saw this as an indication that this field was where I was most talented.
The Journey to University of Maiduguri
People always think it is a lie whenever I tell them that I have a degree in Mathematics. This is because they look at the work I do and think about my painting ability and refuse to see the correlation with Mathematics. The truth is that I studied Mathematics and I have my certificate. You can go to the school and ask about me, I am sure that they would acknowledge that I am an alumnus of UniMaid.
You may wonder, how can one be so good at arts and still be able to obtain a degree in Mathematics, a predominantly scientific course? I believe that there is nothing you cannot do if you make up your mind. So that is exactly what I did, I made up my mind that I was going to get that degree. I am living proof that even if you did not study something in school, it does not mean you cannot produce good things.
Pursuing a career in Arts
At the stage I was getting into the university, I did not know I was going to be an artist. In fact, I thought I was going to end up as a footballer. In 2004, I played at the Pepsi Academy at Murtala Square here in Kaduna. I honestly never thought I could get a better thing to do than play football. But I realized that we would spend several days training but I was never selected for the big games or big competitions. The club would play the bigger, older players that did not show the dedication that we showed in training. At some competitions, we would have to cater for ourselves because the team management would not provide all the necessary requirements. All these problems made me rethink the future of football.
I still had an affinity for arts; I love beautiful things so I still appreciated arts and painting. So after my football commitments; training, meetings, matches, etc, I would then head to an art studio and just observe and help out as much as I could. Sometimes, I would get a little stipend, an allowance from the instructors at the studio. I felt like arts were treating me better than football was.
I considered my available options and decided that football was going to be more difficult for me because of the Nigerian system. I wasn’t wealthy and neither were my parents so I decided to drop football completely after the NUGA games of 2010. At this stage, I had already spent three years as an apprentice at an art studio.
Instructors and Mentors in the Art industry
There is a Ghanaian man, Mr. Pogas and Mr. Fred aka Oga Yellow. I call them Oga Pogas and Oga Yellow. There was also a young man named Gabriel and I gave him all the respect he was due despite the fact that he was younger than I was. If he is an instructor at the studio, he was my instructor and I was determined to learn as much as I could from everyone. I trained with them for good five years before I informed them that I had found a place and I was ready to stand on my own.
I was determined to make sure that I left there with their blessings and I did not have a quarrel with them. I realized that some other apprentices that left the studio to stand on their own left there on bad terms and then they always come back after some time. So I said to myself “E be like say anybody wey leave this shop dey come back o. but me, when I leave, I no dey ever come back because I no dey for that kind thing”
After I left the studio to stand on my own, I have always returned there to greet my mentors and to thank them for everything they have done for me. I feel like those people that left the studio could not make it on their own because they left on bad terms with the boss. To God be the glory, I have apprentices here at my studio helping me out and I have students hoping to learn from me.
Giving up Football for Art
I said earlier this year that even if I have three children, they must play football whether they are male or female. Look at what Neymar, the most expensive player in the world makes. There is no other job you will do that will pay you that kind of money.
As long as there is still a lot of money in football, I will encourage my children to pursue careers in it. See, it will be in their blood because it is in mine. Even today, if you present me with a football, I would still be able to play excellently. I may not be able to last the duration of a full match because I am not as fit as I used to be. Naturally, art and football would be in their genes because it is in mine.
We never knew how much money would be in football and the spells I had with the Pepsi Academy and the Shell competitions with the school team. We used to play at that primary school in Unguwar Rimi and then we played at Narayi when we moved there. I noticed that some of the people that I grew up with who wanted to pursue football as a career were not successful.
Some of these men grew older and got married but I still met them playing at the Pepsi grassroots level. They did not get opportunities outside the country and I knew that they were so talented. I asked myself, “If these guys in my area are not progressing with football, these men that I know. How can I know that the same thing will not happen to me?” It had been happening and I worried that the same thing would happen to me. I was worried that I would be talented and be playing well but I would remain in one spot.
So I looked at my three plans; school, football, and arts. I decided that I must go to school and get a certificate while I pursued arts or football. I decided to drop football and pick up arts. “Make I no go break my leg or end up like those guys for area wey no blow.” So after NUGA 2010, I decided to concentrate on arts and raising a generation of artists.
Clement Colors: The Independent Artist
If you are happy and contented with the little you have and you are consistent and passionate about your work, you are loyal and honest with your clients, then those clients would be happy with your work and would bring other projects to you or refer others to you.
I believed that if I did a good job for your brother, he would bring you to me. When I started out, people questioned my pricing policy. They asked why I charged so little when my art was amazing and I said “I don’t want to chase you (the client) away because of high pricing but I want you to come again another time because that is better”
Sometimes, being talented is not enough, it is better to understand the industry and how the market works. If we waited to sell a painting at a high rate, we would just be sitting and waiting because we did not understand the market but if we kept working hard and sold paintings for lower prices, we would build a customer base that would trust us. This is what I did, I lowered the asking price and worked hard and now I have a success story
If there are no finances, anything you embark upon will be on a small scale. I started like y boss, under a mango tree. Even the first studio I had was a mango tree; it was in 2013, a year after I started out that I managed to erect a temporary structure there. I had only one apprentice so you can imagine how difficult it was when I started out.
Sometimes, I would trek from Narayi to U/Majero because there was no money to take a cab or a keke napep (a tricycle). Sometimes, I would go without eating just so I can meet deadlines and get materials required to ensure that all my customers were not only satisfied but pleased with the work I did for them. To God be the glory, we remained consistent and passionate even when a lot of income was not coming in.
I believe that when you are consistent and passionate about what you do, people will start to pay attention to you sooner rather than later. I am glad that I did not give up after I started because if I did, you would not know who I am today. I would not be in a position to grant this interview. We overcame these challenges by remaining consistent and passionate. Now I have more than ten apprentices. In fact, I do not want to take on apprentices again; I want people to register as students so that I can impart my knowledge in them and I am glad that this is what I do now.
Clement Colors: The Rainbow Man
Tuface said in his song, “I dey feel like Obasanjo” but I don’t even feel like Obasanjo. I don’t even feel like the greater painters that the world has seen like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Leonardo Davinci. I don’t feel like them. I am feeling like God. I am feeling like God because he is my source of inspiration.
He made man in his own image and I believe that whatever is made in your image is you. So I am God. He gave me a skill, a special talent so I must feel like him. I am also using my talent to inspire another god; another human being to be like God. If my students are not inspired by my work, they would not be here. As they have come to learn, I have to give them my all. If they are patient with the learning like I was, then they would be successful too. God will not deny them of that.
Stolen Nigerian Art Works
If someone steals your property, it is because you are better than that person. Someone will steal your money or your car because he cannot come up with ideas to make his own money or a means to buy his car. It is because our paintings, sculptures, our art was better than the Europeans’, this is why they stole our work back then. They stole those arts because they could not do it. However I am happy that these works are getting the deserved recognition and they are selling for a lot of money. I am happy because the works are Nigerian.
But I do not want to be like these artists, I want to be myself. The more I keep discovering who I am, the more there will be more innovation and new creativity will come. If you want to be like them, then the same things that happened to them will happen to you. The best you is you alone and nobody can be you.
Messages passed through Art
I love to paint famous people because they inspire me. All humans are inspired one way or the other and these past leaders inspire me. If they did not do great exploits while they were alive, their names would have been long forgotten. Some of these leaders died even before our parents were born but we still hear about them like they just died a few years ago.
These people were themselves, they did not live to be like anyone else, and they did great things. Whenever I wake up in the morning and I see my paintings of great men, I am inspired. I want my generation to remember me the way that their own generation and generations after would remember their own names.
For instance, look at Malala (Yousafzai). Malala is very young but she is more famous or richer than I am even though I am older than she is. I painted Malala and people asked me what about her inspires me. Malala is touching lives, she is taking risks with things bigger than her without considering what may happen to her she is touching lives, and so what am I doing to help my environment? How am I touching lives?
Final word to our readers and Art enthusiasts in Kaduna
Whatever you find yourself doing, do it well. Live today like it is your last day on the earth. Whatever you are doing, do it well with the best of your heart because you never know when the best results will come your way.
I would like to use this medium to implore our leaders to believe in the population’s ability and not just the theories that are taught in schools. The reason why China has gone ahead in the world economy is because they believe in practical more than theory unlike we do. In China, once you can perform a task, the government would help you hone your skills so that you can become a master at it. Here, you have to submit a certificate before you are given an opportunity.
They put up a vacancy and call for applications. People would apply because they need money, food, a reason to go out in the morning or the respect that comes with “working with government”. Those people may be working hard but they will not be their best because you called for applications and employed them based on that. He would be doing his work, not his hobby or something he enjoys. If you picked him up at his primary stage, his raw form and you train him from there then he can become the best.
I heard that a state governor went to a popular “Mechanic Village” where some men lived and worked on repairing motor vehicles all round the clock. The governor inspected the location, informed them that they would have to relocate and handed them a quit notice. These are raw talents that work hard and do very good jobs. The governor could have relocated them to a more convenient location and given them the tools they need to continue generating income for themselves and the state.
The government should invest in us as individuals and pay more attention to what we can do and what we are doing.