While the majority of boys his age were mindlessly flying paper kites and choosing ‘sets’ for their street football team, Martin experienced a deep call to creativity. “I just had a mind that was pulled by something,” he told The Moveee. He attributed the pull to an unknown force that constantly drives him to create. It was such a lovely and pure experience for him and he confesses that “it is so beautiful under the force. It felt like a new world and I was grateful it existed to swallow me, away from the present world.” He believes that the present world is beyond the reality that surrounded him. There is more that needs to be explored.
I believe that purpose is finding something worth doing and doing it diligently & with the unmistakable touch of excellence. Instead of finding purpose, I am searching for ways to pour out myself into something. And with all my might.Martin Deep
For Martins, writing started as a hobby he picked up as early as age fourteen. He spends more time in the company of himself than in the company of other people. He enjoys reading and writing out new terms he finds in those books so he could check for their meanings in the dictionary to build his vocabulary. He was especially fascinated by language and he finds himself translating this love for reading, vocabulary research and language into a skill that will later develop itself into one of the many creative expressions that embody themselves in him — poetry. “I started out writing hymns in my late father’s hymnal,” Martins recollects.
Poetry is not the ultimate creative expression for him. It is a part of a tripartite whole. Digital art and photography are the other two members of this expression. His photography journey began in 2020. “Waking up to the spark of an idea one morning. I would go out around 6:00 a.m. taking random pictures of old buildings, old people, children.” His earliest photo album contained myriads of pictures of Almajiri boys on the streets of Zaria. “I would share the photos on Facebook and get encouraging comments from friends and strangers. I only edited these photos into sepia or monochrome to give them a feel I believed polished the storytelling as I desired.” All these came naturally to him, out of effortless obedience to a creative pull he did not understand. He could only affirm that this creative drive flows in him, and naturally.
He stumbled on digital art while he was trying to edit his earliest photographs. He learned so fast and soon he was able to get his works featured in reputable publications in and outside of his home country Nigeria.
Martins believes that his greatest achievement will always be measured by how deeply his subjects, readers and general audience are able to connect with his works. “The fact that I can tell someone’s story and they see themselves in it, or get feedback about the connections that people have with my photographs and art pieces is really fulfilling.”
Martins has an interesting idea about purpose. Rather than seeing purpose as something requiring prophetic divination to be revealed., he believes that it is the result of self-determination. “I believe purpose is finding something worth doing and doing it diligently & with the unmistakable touch of excellence. Purpose comes with everything my hands finds to do and eventually being able to leave fingerprints on. Instead of finding purpose, I am searching for ways to pour out myself into something. It might not be art, tomorrow, but I will do it. And with all my might.”
As part of Black Magix, our new series of features to celebrate Black History Month, Haneefah Abdulrahman had a conversation with Martins Deep about confessional art, impostor syndrome and black history month.
HANEEFAH ABDULRAHMAN: You know how the Blacks birthed music, rap, and poetry out of and in response to the pain of slavery in the years of slavery? Creativity was utilized in some way as a coping mechanism. How much does art help you heal? How many wounds do you think you have healed with art?
MARTINS DEEP: Blacks, since the invasion of the white man, have come to be closely associated with struggle. It is beyond remarkable to still find Black people around the world, thriving in their various fields, breaking grounds & barriers. I believe art has helped as an escape from trauma, racism, white domination, marginalization, among others. Art is one of the most powerful forces backing up Black people, and helping them to thrive in the world they find themselves.
I have experienced writing as a relief from the human condition. For me, holding a pen has come to be a great tool for sucking out bad blood.
Much has changed about me since my introduction to confessional poetry. I have never felt this confident, about expressing my deepest emotions as I do now. While I do not believe I will be totally healed, I do know, and with gratitude say that I’ve healed a great deal, and would continue to heal.
Hmmm. Indeed, art is therapy. Would you say that your photographs and digital artworks are also confessional, just like your poems are?
I would say a huge part of them is. I like to think of them as extensions of myself. Whenever I see something that resonates with me, I capture it. Oftentimes, they are basically stories of people that fill me with empathy. I am not very sure that using the word ‘confessional’ will be compatible with photography and visual art, but yes. Knowing what confession is, yes.
How does it feel to celebrate Black History Month as a digital artist, photographer, and writer?
To be honest, it’s an overwhelming privilege to be identified as a Black artist. Sharing a connection with Black artists, past and present, is so fulfilling, only a few things can compare. As a writer, photographer, and digital artist, it’s an honour.
Generally, artists are amazing people, some of us see them as extraordinary. How do you define artists and Black artists?
I agree with you. Artists seem to be totally beyond this realm and their creations are often ineffable. I am not sure a particular definition comes to mind as strikingly as you might desire, but I consider Black artists in the imagery of a phoenix rising from its ashes — a magical creature that breathes immortality. Black is that force the universe has ordained to be bowed to.
How have you used your artistic prowess to reflect the past, the present, and your emotions and connection to the world as a Black artist?
It’s funny how my impostor syndrome filtered ‘prowess’ out of your question.
Laughs. I do know that people like you are humble. Your imposter syndrome can only try to filter your prowess. It is what it is.
Laughs. I am not sure there was ever a time I sat down to count my accomplishments as anything. I think there is a good side to my imposter syndrome as something that has a way of helping me sit, open-minded to learn the craft. Or is it modesty? I am always careful about the meaning I readily have for humility.
I have always had this obsession in the past. I am talking about my earliest memory as a child, and even years before I was born (it is what books and imagination have given me access to). My fascination for the past has shaped me and held my hand to creating art mirroring the past in the best ways I remember and imagine it.
As a black artist, ancestry is vital to growth. There is always a foundation to build on. And I am grateful for the rich history of Black art ages before and after colonization.
You could have a Martins Deep piece in front of you, and feel a strong connection with the past, in the relation to the present.
What words of strength do you have for all Black creatives out there?
Black creatives should keep striving at what they do towards excellence. They should never lose grip of the belief that art does, in fact, matter, and that their stories do, as well. Also, their voices can pierce any darkness, even the one inside of them.