How Aize Muhammad Paul Uses Photography to Carve His Way into the Spiritual World - Bubblegum Club

How Aize Muhammad Paul Uses Photography to Carve His Way into the Spiritual World 

From Benin City to Lagos, Togo, Nairobi, Lamu, Mombasa, Diani, and finally Turkana – Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Aize Muhammad Paul has travelled far and wide across the African continent unearthing the hidden treasures at present in hopes of making sense of the nebulous spiritual realm that looms in the afterlife. 

Through his findings, he presents his latest offering, a physical and virtual catalogue entitled  “Erèn oghè okhaza – Èkpo oghè ulè obaba”, translating to, “Flares of Enthusiasm, Dash Between” exhibited at the Mike Adenuga Centre this April. In sum, the idea of his third instalment to the five-part exhibition series is “to create a space where people can interact with art, spirituality, and tech”. 

Though Aize’s photographic career (and exploration of the theme of spirituality by extension) is still budding, his life has inherently been characterised by a constant battle to reject complacency and venture into the “unknown”. 

In this interview, we demystify the man behind the lens to uncover Aize’s cultural heritage and metaphysical creative choices in hopes of spotlighting the potentiality of Aize’s world-building artwork that aims to “inspire individualism to creatively encourage humanism on a global scale”. 


How would you summarise your creative journey from inception to present?

Firstly, I’d say Alhamdulillah. I feel very blessed at this point of my journey, being in every part of the creative industry – recording music, design, styling, creative directing and now photography and creating installations of these immersive spaces with virtual reality. I’m grateful and happy to be here today and be able to deliver. 

Are there any creatives who influenced you that you looked up to/ who inspired you to take this seriously? Who were your early influences?

My dad was my first influence. He was the captain of the photography club in the Nigerian Defence Army. And later on, I would watch Fashion TV and feel inspired by the late-night shoots. My first boss told me that I took really good photos so I thought I’d end up doing photography as a retirement job. I hadn’t really envisioned it as my career. 

In 2018, I started taking photos for brands, but it was still never something I was going to do full-time, I thought I was going to do styling. Covid-19 happened and I was locked down in my hometown Benin City, which I had travelled to for a shoot. When I shared the photos with my current manager, he said I was ready to exhibit and my first exhibition followed shortly in 2020. After that, it’s just been a rollercoaster of greatness. 


How has being from Benin City in Nigeria influenced your work?

My culture is a major part of my art and practice. If you go to Benin, everything you see down there is mostly art – the people; the architecture; the fashion. There’s something inherently inspiring about it. As a kid, I didn’t really want to go back there but now I draw from its heritage. 

I pay homage to my roots in everything I do. My first catalogue was set in Benin. My images are titled in Benin, and this current exhibition title is Benin. Most of the images in this catalogue were shot there. I think the Benin people are the most graceful people in the whole world/ in the history of mankind. I feel blessed to have come from such a heritage. 

What’s the name of the exhibition and the theme?

Basically, the exhibition is a three-part series from a 5 part series exhibition. The show has a 99-image catalogue. As of today, we have 53 pieces up in a virtual gallery, the idea is it’s a self-navigating show, which is about life and death

As humans here on earth, some of us die just before we are born. The “flares of enthusiasm” represent the uninhibitedness of your soul prior to birth. Clueless, as you drift with fragility in forms of the most liberated versions of yourself you will ever witness, just as you precede your unrequested entry into a life-form. 

The “dashing hopes”, dreams, and ideal possibilities of 280 days before you get to be introduced to the dash. Dash – As your story segues into a whole identity embodied in this life-form. The dash between is you, here, right now. Your life – awareness of it, questions from it, expectations of it. 

I was trying to capture all these emotions in 99 images and have every viewer integrated. If you read the statement board it says there are 99 images and the last image is up to you. I’m not meant to give a tour of the exhibition. You’re supposed to come in and it’s an installation for sight, sound and taste. The idea is for you to feel everything and smell everything. Everything has been made to create an immersive feeling. 


What did you feel during the creative process? 

This is my last show in Nigeria until further notice. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to create something I hadn’t seen or done before that referenced my work in 2021, but showcases the growth between that period and now. In a sense, this is a self-discovery project. My approach was to mentally, physically and spiritually evolve to prove to my past artistic self that I am better at doing things. I feel immensely satisfied with how I executed it and how people are receiving it.

Your image titled “The Boys” is one of your most popular pieces, which features in this current catalogue. Can you walk us through the creative process behind this photo?

My inside joke is that I call them the “lava boys”. I stumbled on them playing in the ocean during my trip to Benin Republic. While editing the photos, it reminded me of a boys club where they can play innocently, not feeling ashamed or emasculated. Their youth may make them naive, but they are happy nonetheless. 

I coloured the photo red because I wanted to juxtapose the playfulness of the imagery with the red that signifies a “danger zone” to the viewer. This is because the idea of the catalogue is for everyone who sees it to be invoked by certain emotions/feelings. It’s not my place to tell you what/how to feel when you see my photos. 

What’s next for Aize, the great adventurer? 

I need a vacation first of all. Diani is my choice right now, that’s where I go for a month every year for the past two years. My goal is to sell these images and have some of the proceeds go to the muses, which has been a recurring initiative since my first exhibition. I don’t shoot models. I just shoot random people on the street and build a network with them. It’s like they are my family in some sense so, I feel good having a connection with those people. So travelling around does aid and inspire this.



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