Ohh Lalanne: Sankofa means go back and get it

So Amy, tell us a little about yourself and how you were introduced to the art world…

My name is Amy Marie Lalanne. As an artist, I go by the alias “Ohh Lalanne.” Art has always been a significant part of my life as far back as my memories take me. My first canvas was a wall and my first tool, a crayon. I am a self-taught artist and apart from standard art classes offered in public school, all my interest to hone my art skills was self-initiated. By middle school, I was already taking interest in fashion design, creating characters and designing their clothes. However, it was only in high school, that I began to mature as an artist and take art seriously. I learnt shading techniques all by myself for a class project and this helped me, later on, to bring my flat 2D art to life in a 3D image, improving my drawing and pushing me in the realm of realism.

What drives you to create?

I consider myself to be a griot and create art for the generations come after me. I see my artworks as time capsules, that conserve history, cultural ideals and principles, which could serve as a guide to understanding the past and paving the way to make informed decisions for an empowered future.

So, the African Culture greatly influences and inspires you…

African Culture plays a significant role in my work because it is my way of getting in touch with my roots and I hope to assist others in doing the same through my work. And one of the many evils brought on by slavery was severing us Africans from our native languages and cultures. Through my art, I strive to reconnect my fellow Africans of the Diaspora with their roots and make them aware of where they come from and who they are.

This is a very relevant topic all over the world these days…

For me, this is especially important for the children of African descent living in the United States, whose unique and in-depth history has had limited representation in scholastic settings. In my most recent body of work, I created daily artworks during the Kwanzaa celebration of African pioneers, who according to me, embodied that particular day’s principle. In addition, I included a small biography highlighting their most important work.

How would you best describe your work in a word?

The best way to describe my work in one word would be “Sankofa.” Sankofa is a Ghanaian word which means “Go back and get it.” It is associated with the adinkra symbol of a bird looking backwards to get its most valuable asset: its egg. The concept of the word depicts the importance of looking back to the traditions and wisdom of ancestors for guidance.

It’s very profound. How do you wish to apply this in your work?

The purpose of my art is geared towards teaching and educating the future generations by leaving an impactful impression them. For this reason, I have used my art skills to create content within my nonprofit community, Bridge the Gap Coalition, of which I am the founder. I create content to engage the youth, teach them about their history and encourage them to embrace their African culture. In the past, I have used art as a solution for getting the youth involvement for special historical events with which my organisation was associated.

Your non-profit community is doing a lot of important work by reaching out and making everybody aware. It’s paving way for more opportunities.

I have also partnered with another community artist to launch a unique colouring book entitled “Kwanzaa Affirmations, Activity and Colouring Book.” My nonprofit has created opportunities for local artists, as well, for the commissioning of their work. I continue to create artistic content for my nonprofit organisation and am currently in the process of starting my own business centred around creating art that gives more representation to people of African descent by celebrating the beauty of their diverse heritage and cultures.

Which other artists do you look up to?

Over the years, I have also been a collector of works of several other artists, who have inspired me. However, of them all, the paintings of Hemler Mauricette inspire me the most.

What does Mauricette’s work focus on?

Mauricette is an emerging artist, of Haitian descent and I had the pleasure of attending one of his exhibits last year and was deeply touched by the social commentary within his paintings, the use of symbolism, and also the incorporation of African, Haitian and American history elements.

Do you wish to explore and experiment with more mediums or you plan on continuing with graphite?

In fact, Mauricette’s exhibit and the experience of it inspired me to branch out from the world of graphite sketching to explore that of colour. For so long, I allowed my perfectionism to stagnate my development as an artist because I was afraid of judgment. Last year, I let go of that fear embracing that art is less about “getting it right” and more about self-expression. I have, since, been experimenting with watercolours and acrylics in my paintings. Other tools that I use include charcoal, as well as, graphic design. While designing our Kwanzaa colouring book, I learned to use Adobe Photoshop so that I could edit the illustrations and fill in the book’s cover photo. I also used Photoshop to create a few design elements within the colouring book. I continue to experiment with digital drawing and hope to be able to create characters for the future projects I have in mind!

You can check out more of Ohh Lalanne’s work at @OohLalanneArt!

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