From one-of-a-kind pieces to CAMH, Apanaki Temitayo M is an incredibly talented local artist! This week we were lucky enough to sit down with her for an interview to learn a little bit more about her background, art successes and personal story. Apanaki’s involvement in the community and artistry work is amazing, and we can’t wait for you to learn more about her!
Can you share with us a little about who you are and your background?
I am a Toronto-based multi-disciplinary artist who was born in Toronto and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a bi-sexual, single mother of three. As an author, spoken word poet, actor, multimedia artist and teacher, I have always been involved in the world of art and creativity. My canvas compositions are often an expression of my Trinidadian heritage and spirituality. Currently I am the CAMH 1st Artist in Wellness and was featured in the Kuumba Exhibit and Where She Went, She Thrived at the Harbourfront Centre presented by Nia Centre for the Arts. Some of my other background highlights include being the Workman Arts Artist-in-Residence for 2017-2018 as well as being the first woman of colour featured in Room Magazine! One of my biggest highlights to date was when I made my international debut in South Carolina at the 9th Annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition: Maya Angelou with my original artwork Mama’s Watching.
Tell us about your art journey and where it began for you?
Being Scene is more than a show to members of Workman Arts, it is a platform to reinvent yourself as an artist. I came to WA as a writer and poet over 10 years ago, and because of the Being Scene Juried Exhibition, I got a chance to submit creative work that wasn’t in my particular genre. In doing so, it added a new discipline for myself as an artist. It gave me a chance to explore being a visual artist in my work at Being Scene 2012 and I was fortunate that my piece The Egungun got in.
How do your identity and culture come into play with your artwork?
I am very aware of myself firstly as a woman of the diaspora in the arts and what that means to be a visible, intersectional woman of Trinidadian heritage. Every piece of the artwork calls me home and reminds me of the colour, vibrancy and melting pot that is my home country. The feel of the African fabric in my hands while I place them on the canvas reaffirms the legacy and history of myself as a Trinbagonian.
What makes your work unique to you as an artist in the Toronto community?
My art is definitely a reflection of my state of mind. I wish I could say that my best pieces have actually come from a calm and safe space but I tend to create my best work in a kind of mental chaos, where my art becomes the therapy. I usually get inspiration from images that I find either in my everyday life or the internet that speak to me. Once I get an image or idea in my head, it usually develops there. I work out a lot of my direction, rendering and concepts of my work there first and then when I finally get to the canvas it is like having a picture of a puzzle that I get to put together, on a piece of fabric at a time.
Tell us about your online store and the various textiles you offer beyond wall art like home decor, lifestyle pieces, apparel, etc.
My online store can be found here, where you can find art prints and so much more! From custom work like posters, archival, framed and stretched canvas art prints, you can curate my original artwork on versatile surfaces such as metal, wood and tapestries. Functionality meets art in our range of home decor – with throw pillows, duvet covers, shower curtains, bath and beach towels. Tote bags, weekender totes, carry-all pouches and portable chargers for people on the go are also available in the online shop, all of which are crafted with tons of unique colors, textures and culture. These are custom everyday pieces that you can’t find elsewhere. We also offer a Centre for Disease Control compliant COVID cloth face mask for your stylish personal safety needs. Plus we also offer personal gift ideas, puzzles, coffee mugs and lots of apparel for all members of the family.
What are some of the things that inspire you and your various designs?
My art practice is heavily influenced by my Caribbean, African heritage and spirituality which can be seen through the textures, materials and inspirations of my pieces. African fabrics are at the center of my work — whether I am paying homage to the Orishas (Yoruba Gods) and Afrofuturism — and my collage art practice displays the vibrant colours, bold patterns and deep cultural meaning of these textiles as it pays homage to my Trinbagonian roots. I also incorporate beads, shells, crystals, sequins, alcohol ink, acrylic paint and oil pens in my work to accentuate and punctuate sensuality, vulnerability, the divine and a multitude of emotions and experiences all expressed unapologetically.
How did you become a part of the Workman Arts Art-Cart Program at CAMH?
Lisa Brown, the Founder of Workman Arts gave me my first opportunity to become an art facilitator when I taught my first Intro To Textile Art Workshop to WA members in 2014. A couple of years after that I was one of the first Art Facilitators rostered as part of the Worksman Arts Art-Cart Program through Gifts of Light funded by The Slaight Family Foundation. Through this program, I was able to positively impact the lives of the CAMH In-Patients with weekly art-based workshops that introduced them to everything from finger painting, clay work, poetry and textile art.
Tell us what you love about teaching art to CAMH participants who struggle with mental health and drug addiction?
My work as an Art Facilitator at CAMH with Art-Cart Program helps me give back to my community. I love the joy my participants get from that hour of just organic creation. The focus of these art techniques is to boost creative confidence, strengthen self-awareness, connect with their inner child and allow participants to live in the moment. As an artist-activist informing the community about a lived experience with mental health, I hope to use my art practice to educate and connect the participants with these long-term benefits of art as therapy. I use my textile art collage in the context of contemporary canvas with acrylic, literally as a journey back to myself. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and trauma, I know the benefit of such workshops and how they directly impact and help in the positive expression of their trauma in an artistic way. Connecting the displaced pieces of home with cloth, shells, beads – into a vibrant expressive collage of colour and light. I believe my true calling is to be an Art Facilitator to bring a truer understanding about artists with lived experience with mental health at the intersectionality of blackness to help destigmatize what that means.
As a multimedia artist, do you have a favourite creation you’ve made whether it be a physical piece of artwork or something else?
The Madonna and Child: The Sacred and Profane was first conceptualized for the Holy City: The Art of Love, Unity and Resurrection Exhibition in honour of the Charleston 9, who was viciously struck down at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Due to the flooding, the exhibition was postponed to the following year.
I was honoured to be the only Canadian Artist to be accepted into this prestigious art festival for the second time. A Piece of Peace – the Art Festival’s theme – was a wonderful opportunity to express my interpretation through my unique art practice. It couldn’t have come at a better time since it’s almost a year to the date of the terrible incident.
When I was given the opportunity to create and showcase this very personal yet pivotal artwork, as part of the 10th Annual African American Fiber Exhibition, it has taken me on a journey. The Madonna and Child not only honour my Orisha religion and Christianity but the various themes such as Black Lives Matter, the racism in the South and freedom of speech.
The image of the Madonna and Child is an iconic one. My original artwork is full of spiritual imagery from the whirls of the sky and the sea in the background to the bullet rounds used to create the halos above the heads of the mother and her babe.
The original statues that grace the halls of the Vatican are of the Black Madonna and Child. One of the holiest symbols of Christianity the Madonna image remains a robust synthesis of religion and art and helps many Christian faithful focus prayers and other devotional practices. It is also used as an opportunity for artists to express, simultaneously, their creativity and their religious devotion. In using the symbol in its original form, it is literally a statement on Christianity and colonization of these images to excluded people of colour.
As an Orisha devotee of this West African tradition, the swirls in the background, refer to the dance between life and death. Oya, the Goddess of the Whirlwind, Swift Change and Death are represented in her colours of purple and gold. Yemoja, the Mother of All and the Creator of Life is represented in the storming seas, her colours of dark blue and silver. All in all, Life and Death are always constant and interchangeable.
As an Orisha Devotee, we acknowledge Oya – the Goddess of death; as well as swift change. In turn, the unfortunate and untimely passing of 9 innocent civilians of South Carolina in the beautiful city of Charleston, reflect and evoke a change in “the system” and highlight that racism is alive and well. With Dylann Roof finally coming up for conviction almost 6 years after their deaths in 2021.
What are some of the projects you are currently working on / excited about?
I have just finished a video project about BIPOC representation with the Art Gallery of Ontario and Workman Arts that will debut in early 2022. My work with the World Health Organization on the launch of the Art Fusion platform as part of the Art Impact of Health Initiative on a date to be announced.
I am currently working on a collection called Our Bodies. It is my love letter to black beauty in all its shapes and forms, with me revisiting my days as a spoken word poet. I’m excited to share my words with these images that will hopefully be made into a photo book in the future.
Plus my work will be featured in the Queen West Art Crawl Virtual Online Festival from September 15th to 19th, and my commissioned piece The Crest of Medusa will be the poster art for the OperaQTO show Medusa’s Children by Charlie Petch.
How can people support the work you’re doing right now?
Thank you so much to Apanaki Temitayo M for sitting down and sharing her phenomenal story with us! She is clearly an incredible artist in touch with her culture and identity to create amazing works of art. From galleries, shows, one-of-a-kind pieces, teachings and more, her work is truly making a significant impact in the local community. We can’t wait to see what she achieves next in her career!