Story highlights This book transforms the modern city into an ethereal space
The illustrator explains the significance of, and inspiration behind, her “tradition of futility”
If there’s one thing we’ve all experienced at one point or another, it’s that familiar feeling of wanting to escape to someplace else for a while. During those moments, the best way to alleviate some of that frustration is by escaping to a new city. Whether it’s somewhere far-off in the world, or just a small city outside our current area, there’s a solid likelihood that you’ve driven by someplace completely new that just captured your attention and kept it there.
Editor’s Note: “Tradition of Futility” by Toyin Ojih Odutola was chosen as one of the best holiday gifts for 2018 by Michelle Kwong and Jack Morton Worldwide for CNN Money and uses a custom illustration package to make the gift truly unique. This piece of artwork can be custom ordered on Amazon, and the Amazon Elements signature versions of Toyin’s book are priced from $29.99.
Once you stop in the city of dreams, where will you go from there? Do you stay a little longer? Do you part ways with your current locale and take a temporary trip? There’s an old saying that says to “go slow, go fast, go hard or go home.”
Contemporary Nigerian artist Toyin Ojih Odutola — also known as Tokpokona — took that wisdom to heart, applying it to her beautifully simplistic illustrations. This is certainly a case of staying the course, and it’s a well-timed concept for those who are looking to fill their needs with something ethereal and mystical.
Odutola says she always runs on a purely instinctual level. “Whenever I see the form of someone or something, my first instinct is to find its antithesis,” she says. And sometimes she knows what she wants so precisely that she often doesn’t even bother to look around her. “Once I figure it out, I just see it,” she explains.
With that being said, Odutola’s “Tradition of Futility” (she grew up in Lagos, Nigeria) is an exploration of Nigerian traditional culture and architecture — a tradition she says she grew up with.
“My childhood required that every Tuesday morning after school I went to my parents’ small garden on the outskirts of the city where my childhood village was located,” she says. “My parents’ home was on the next street. So having to go over there and bring the grass, seeds, bricks, water, and all the essentials to build a birthing cave, was a rite of passage.”
That ritual was a beautiful representation of the painstaking work that goes into building a birthing cave, and Ojih Odutola tapped into that tradition to help create the beautiful birthing scenes that grace her “Tradition of Futility” book.
Odutola explains that she wanted to infuse a sense of realism into her work, but retained a sense of perspective and modernity, too. “I am usually concerned with three aspects when constructing new designs: It is my uniqueness, the concept, and its connection to realities,” she says.
So, having crafted a birthing cave, the birthing process and then birthing babies, Odutola took her creative spin on an everyday occurrence. Using as her inspiration some of the real world’s magical and ethereal places, the birthing sequences were done in motion and “reinvigorated the traditional idea of birthing”, she says. “I love the joy that it brings me and everything it means in my life.”
You can follow Odutola on her Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages for regular updates.
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