Recently we had the opportunity to talk with Apanaki Temitayo M about her art, inspiration and creative journey. Born in Toronto and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Apanaki Temitayo M is an author, spoken word poet, actor, multimedia artist and teacher. I truly loved our discussion, as it is a beautiful reminder that we can turn our pain into our purpose. A big thank you to Apanaki Temitayo M for taking the time to share her story and insights with us. You can find Apanaki’s textile art pieces here
Apanaki’s piece Mama’s Watching, will be showcased at Workman Arts 16th Being Scene Juried Exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel on March 1st – 27th 2017. Click here for more information
How/When did you know you were an artist?
My artist journey was a painful one, I actually became an artist in order to deal with my abuse and trauma that happened while I was a teenager. I started writing poetry as a way to help have an escape and expression for myself during the time of my childhood abuse. I have to say that my evolution was very organic after that, I wrote, acted and sang in my younger years while I lived in Trinidad and Tobago. When I came to Canada in my early twenties to start my life as a Canadian, I got a chance to be part of Fresh Arts Program with the Toronto Arts Council as a poet and writer. I worked with COBA and did some performances at Harbourfront and Nathan Phillips Square. I met my mentor Dr Althea Prince, who helped facilitate a series of anthologies that I was proud to be a part of, Black Girl Talk, Sister Vision Press; Re-Imaging the Sky, Newcomer Women’s Collective, and Caribbean Erotic: Poetry, Prose and Essays by Peepal Tree, just to name a few.
What inspires you?
I am truly inspired by beauty found in unsuspected places. I believe as a survivor you see the world with a different lens, so I truly the beauty of nature and resilience. As an Orisha Devotee, a religion which takes its origin from West Africa, we see the elements of the world and nature as both male and female, so I try to celebrate those elements in my artwork.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of my work as an artist, especially a visual artist. I actually came upon my art practice because of my love of African textiles and in trying to incorporate that in visual art. The fact that something that literally started as vision of what I wanted my art to capture that energy and vibrancy. I now teach my art practice to people like myself that have mental health challenges, and trauma, in this way I am finally able to give back.
Name a book that changed your life?
The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker is one of the many books that changed my life. It resonated with me as an Orisha Devotee and my belief in reincarnation that played within the theme of these characters. Also the theme of trauma and racism which each character goes through in some way but the spirituality which is closer to my Yoruba teachings. Emphasizing as African people we need to truly know our history to truly understand where you come from. I truly think it speaks to the state of the world today and our task as black people to never forget going forward.
What helps you keep going on days you want to quit?
I struggle with depression and PTSD, so art has been my outlet for my expression. It has saved me most days of life and it is my passion. The thought of quitting does cross my mind, but a fellow artist once told me when I was worried that people would not connect with my art, she said “Make the art for you and people who love it will come.” No truer words have ever been spoken, and with that so many other opportunities have come my way, in teaching my art practice and helping people with mental illness and trauma get introduced to art for the first time. I have been a Textile Artist for 6 years now, and I actually feel very blessed to have found my passion later in life.
What’s been your most important lesson in business/life?
The most important lesson I have learned in business is not to be afraid to let your business evolve from what you started in your business plan. Your business will start off one way and go in many different directions, either because of your product, your clients needs, or just what you will like it to become. So never be afraid to shift your view and look at different opportunities that may expand it into something that is truly viable and works for you.
What advice do you have for someone like you… who is thinking of putting their art out there?
If you are an artist and looking to make a living from your art you need to find ways to expand your work from just fine art, but all the marketable things your work can be.
Print On Demand: There are a lot of print-on-demand sites where you can have a online portfolio and be able to give your customers options in having your artwork as a product that is functional as well as beautiful.
Hustle for Your Art: Don’t be afraid to hustle for your art, try to get your art showcased in as many places as possible, such as local galleries, coffee shops and community spaces. Most places wouldn’t mind showing your work for free and will not take a commission for your work.
Connect Through Social Media: Join Social Media groups on Facebook, that will help share your work, get feedback and connect you with sellers. Be a member of groups or organizations that offer exhibition opportunities in your communities.
Ever Thought of Teaching: You will be surprised how many people would love to learn your technique or art style. If you get an opportunity to teach please take it. It gives a new perspective on how your art affects people and it is a great way to reinforce your art technique. Honestly, it just makes me feel good to give back.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Local Exposure: It only takes showcasing your artwork in America to become an international artist. If you get an opportunity to submit work for exhibitions south of the border then do it, you literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
How do you balance life and your creative work?
Creative work and personal life is a juggle, and being a single mother of three is not easy. I have learned to let go of having control over everything. My family helps me by being supportive when my work week gets heavy, by giving me the space to just be a messy artist at home where I create most of my work. You also need to let go of being the perfect mother, you will not always be on top of things and in those instances you need to be gentle with yourself. I know me being an artist and happy, is such an inspiration to my children and I see it manifest itself in their lives. So go for your passion and bring those who support and love you on the ride.
Anything else you’d like to share?
My last bit of advice. be yourself, don’t look at what other artist are doing but keep to your vision of what you want to do with your art and connect with your passion for your work. Don’t ever be afraid to try new techniques, it will always add to your skill base and may take your art in a whole new exciting direction. And yes, you can be an artist and an entrepreneur. Once you have decided that you want to make this a living, research and see what options are there for artist and get support to make a business plan. Rise Asset Development was the perfect fit for me, because they helped me develop my business plan, offered accessible loans and mentoring for my small business. Don’t give up on your dream and if you want it, you will make it possible.
Born in Toronto and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Apanaki Temitayo M is an author, spoken word poet, actor, multimedia artist and teacher. Her canvas compositions are an expression of her Trinidadian heritage and spirituality. Apanaki is currently teaching her art practice at Workman Arts Encore Program for Inpatients,with experience as a facilitator at Toronto East General Hospital, Mental Health Outpatient Clinic, Drop-In Art Class and at Workman Arts, CAMH. Rise Asset Development, helped to support her in becoming the Sole Proprietor of Apanaki Designs. Her handcrafts and fine artwork merchandise, soft furnishings and accessories, are all made in Canada.