Don't focus on what other people have done. Focus on what you can learn and do. - Sheila Written by: Awosanmi Temidayo / Styling and Creative Direction - Vera Iroka / Photography: Mide King This week, we spoke with multi-media artist Sheila Chukwulozie, whose performances and installations have been seen in the United States, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Czech Republic. The talented artist, whose background is historical and political analysis, combines social anthropology with performance. Q: Can you briefly introduce yourself? Hi, my name is Sheila Chukwulozie. I am a performance artist, writer, thinker, and actress. I read books, I write essays, songs, design spaces, build installations, make tea, console my friends (laughs) and pray to God. Yeah, that’s about it. What is your greatest Joy as a Woman? The ability to have a menstrual cycle. It reminds me of the cyclical nature of time. It gives me an opportunity to rest my body. If I didn't have to relax during my period, I'm sure I wouldn't. And I think maybe that's why they say men have shorter lifespans (laughs). Because if you don't do it intermittently, it will come for you at once. So I appreciate it when difficulty compels me to rethink my own comforts. How do you maintain a work life balance? Vibes, vibes, it’s all vibes. Tears. I cry! But I think right now I'm just in the process of transitioning into a moment-to-moment strategy. I focus 100% on every second so that by the time I'm done with the second, I know that was the best use of my time. I also like calendars. I like being able to just know that there's something that can remind me of my tasks for the day. Before, I used to think I was a psychic and relied on my good memory, but that didn't always work. Are you a movie or book person? I'm actually both. I'm sorry but you can't make me pick between my two children. I'm a filmmaker and a writer (laughs). I can't do that. What is your life mantra? “who no know go know”. When did you start writing and what motivated you? While in secondary school, we were reading the “Joys of Motherhood” for my literature class, and we were asked to write anything on the cover of the book. Now, on the cover of the book, there was like a ‘nakedish’ woman who's holding a calabash or something and I wrote this long write up about the woman: her shape and silhouette but to my surprise my teacher punished me for writing about sex. Even though I feared I would be punished when next I wrote, I felt pretty good doing it and I would say that experience stands out. I've always written. My writing stems from my voracious reading habit. I was the last born in my family and because the age gap between me and my siblings was huge, I spent most of my time alone. I filled the loneliness that created with books (I grew to enjoy solitude). What does creativity mean to you? Creativity means living with the intention of adding something to the earth that was not there before you came around. What is your favourite holiday destination? Manifesting Essaouira, Morocco but Senegal is my ultimate dream holiday spot. What three words aptly describe yourself? Like Beyonce said: alien, superstar, unique. I would say - unique, eccentric and holy. How did you get into filmmaking and performing? When I was younger, people repeatedly encouraged me to go into modeling. I grew up thinking I was meant to be a model. I later realized I was not going to be a model because it was too difficult for me to pretend. The performance duration of modeling is too short. I like intense things and performances gave me the opportunity to sustain a character for a long period of time. I have a lot of characters I've harbored since I was a child and performing allows me to be in charge of designing what the character may look like outside my brain and then I now also get to perform my own interpretation. Film has a special place in my heart because film is like a moment in time, yet performance depends on ephemerality, the fact that it will go which is why people love it. It's because theater will not last forever, but cinema challenges that assumption. It enables performance to last a long time, and some of the films that have impacted my life were produced 50 or 60 years ago. So the chance to accomplish that for a generation 60 years younger than me is quite thrilling. Is perfection a myth? I'm triggered by just the word perfection. Yeah, perfection is a myth. Perfection is for God. I think perfection is the ultimate, like, forgiveness, and forgiveness is actually an opportunity to be perfect. When you can forgive yourself for imperfections, that's when you actually reach the state of perfection. Were you ever discouraged? If so, how did it affect your creativity? This is getting deep, are you my therapist? (laughs) Of course, I've been discouraged. Like, we just talked about perfection and imperfection. When you believe you have a wonderful concept in your head and test yourself by putting it out into the world, you may discover that the tangible version of your intangible idea is only around 20% of what you expected. This might be upsetting which may lead you to believe you're 'whack' and need to find a 9 to 5 job, but you quickly learn that's just the nature of creating. The nature of creating is to encounter mistakes so that the next time you do the same thing, you'll be better off. And it's a beautiful thing to watch myself grow into. I think that discouragement is actually encouragement from the universe. Children walk and fall many times, if they were too scared of falling, they would never walk. Can you share your morning beauty routine? I know they say don't take your phone first thing in the morning, but I often do, but not go on social media where I have to look at other people's life. I usually go to YouTube to watch a lecture or a video about the nature of life because it makes me feel better. I smoke, stretch, do “yin yoga’, and listen to music. I don't use many scrubs due to having sensitive skin from over-exfoliating, but I love using products with salicylic acid because it has really benefited my face. I also use facial moisturizers, vitamin C products, and florida water. I put on something beautiful and I'm set for the day. If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? That is a tough one man. I'm going to choose two people; Jesus and Satan - not God. Jesus and Satan because I feel like they're both Children of God and I want to know what divided the family! (laughs) I want to get an understanding as to how they feel about it because you know, they've been in the game for so long. I want to have an understanding of how they see each other. What is the importance of consistently creating routines? It's so important - consistency is key. Those people that said it the first time, they were not joking! Like I said before, every single new iteration teaches you something and before you know it you're so much better than you had even planned to be. Consistency is like being on the smaller steps of a ladder and taking small strides to ‘your forever’. It's a much surer way to get there than a very grandiose expectation of where you think you should be. Rome was not built in a day that is consistency for me . What health habits do you do to stay mentally agile? Ginger. Not ‘Spiritual Ginger’ (laughs) but actual Ginger. It is one of my absolute favorite natural resources. It is quite beneficial to me because I used to suffer from bacterial infections. Ginger physically, ginger internally, even the scent increases the quality of my life because of how calm it makes me. It works quite hard to care for my extremely delicate body. For example, antibiotics just wipe out every single bacteria in your system, whereas ginger slowly resolves the issue. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Senegal, but I guess here (Lagos) for now as I have to start with what I have. I just want to have it on record that I am grateful for existing in Lagos! Lagos has a lot of lessons that prepare me to actually live and find joy anywhere. So that question is actually easier for me to answer because I'm starting from the bottom and it's only up from here. Lagos sharpens my sword and I feel excited by the opportunity to have my sword sharp by the time I get outside. What part of your work is the most important? The decision to make it. How do you reclaim your sanity in these turbulent times? Yoga, prayer, my nieces and nephew, talking to myself out loud. I know when we were younger we thought it was only crazy people that did that, but I'm here to tell you that we should all be crazy. Also, pedicures, steam baths, reading, singing, playing and getting tattoos. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit? Oh, that is such a special question! God. I guess I wasn't planning on saying it like that, but I say God because God is not just a white man with a beard for me. God is the facts of my reality, like the innermost facts of my reality. By this I mean my family, my friends, my two little puppies, a lot of people (in my life), and also the memory of my dad (he just passed away). I think about my life from a perspective of what he (my dad) would say to me now that he's gone. I feel like he is telling me what to do because it can be done and because he's seeing it from a different perspective. His perspective is very encouraging for me. What's your advice for Women who want to be beautiful inwardly and outwardly? There's nothing better outside, the grass is not greener on the other side, every single thing you're looking for, you already have it. If you spend your life looking for beauty, beauty will spend its own life running away from you. I believe you can only chase something that you don't have and you have to start with the decision to have it and then you find it. That confidence is the ability to allow yourself to appreciate how you look externally knowing that even if it's not perfect, whatever you have internally will make up for it. Don’t panic when you see something that you think is missing externally. Everything that's missing is an opportunity for someone else to find you. If you're beautiful in that perfect way, perhaps nobody has anything to add to your life. And that's the ugliest state of existence; loneliness! Always remember that. Success to you means what? Success means the power and the confidence to throw away everything you think you know about success. It means when you as an individual can pick up that word success and throw it away into the dustbin, incinerate it in the fire and then pick it up and redefine it. What advice would you give Women who are just starting up in your field? Don't worry about what other people have told you has been done. Worry about what you know and what you can do. Period. 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