Finding freedom of expression through art

August 4, 2021
Author: Eric Zimmer

Enigye "Happy" Amarkah's work will be part of an exhibit at RockVIU in September

For third-year Visual Art student Enigye Amarkah, expressing oneself isn’t about being limited to one particular medium.

“I don’t like to specify my style because sometimes when you want to express yourself, it’s going to work better as a sculpture, or it’s going to be a good photograph, or it will be a painting, so I don’t like to focus on just one aspect,” says Enigye, whose name translates to "Happy," a moniker he more commonly goes by.

Happy is one of three artists whose work will be on display during the interactive art exhibit at RockVIU: Welcome to Campus, the University’s annual new student orientation event, which takes place over two weeks this year. The interactive art exhibit on September 3 includes visual art and dance performances that reflect on the theme of what it means to “Matter Here” at VIU. Students can also contribute their thoughts and hopes to the RockVIU Time Capsule, which will be opened next year.

We caught up with Happy to find out more about the work he does, and what people can expect from him during the exhibit.

What are you focusing on with this VIU exhibition?

Our main focus is around the school’s motto, Matter Here, so what we are all working on narrows down to that theme – even though it’s different art from different people, it’s all going to be around the same subject matter. We’re all working on it, and putting in our best – even people who aren’t directly associated with it are putting in whatever way they can. The exhibits are going to be great. That’s a promise.

Without giving too much away, how are you expressing your art with this theme?

I’m doing a big painting on racial and cultural diversity, I’m doing sculptures on unity, and then I’m going to do a light display in the theatre for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It’s going to be lights of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and the people coming to see the exhibition will be inside the work and will become part of the exhibit.

What is your creative process like?

You have to think a lot and come up with something that isn’t just coming up with something for the sake of it; it also has to have meaning, then you do the sketch. Ideas can look good in your head and on paper, but when you actually sit down and start to do it, it’s more work than you think. 

What attracts you to the mediums you work with?

It’s how I feel when I want to tackle a subject. For example, I did a sculpture on mental slavery. I could have taken a photograph, I could have done a painting, but I wanted to go with a sculpture because I felt that the 3D dimension of the sculpture means more to me than just a flat-surface panting. I get a theme or subject matter, and decide how I want to express it in a way that will connect to me more and make more sense to me and the audience. It’s not just random, it’s how I feel when I’m going to start the work.

How did you discover VIU, and what has your experience been like?

It’s been great. I was originally planning to apply to a bunch of different schools until an agent back in my home country of Ghana suggested VIU. She told me it’s like a peaceful small community. The teachers are like family to us. If you have a problem, you can contact your professor, and they’ll solve it with you like you are their own kid. If I had to do it all over again, I would still come here.

What sort of reaction are you hoping to evoke from your audience when they see your RockVIU exhibit?

A lot of things happen in this world: racism, the 2SLGBTQ+ community being criticized, and things like that. We just want students that are going to come here, and students that are here already to know that VIU actually means it when they say you matter here as a person, with whatever you believe in and whoever you want to be. This is the place for you.

What are your future plans after you finish at VIU?

I really want to further my education and do a master’s degree in art. I’m not leaving art, that’s all I’ve got. If VIU did a master of fine arts program I would stay here. I might go to Victoria or Vancouver or something like that.

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