He’s hard to miss; tall, dreadlocked and almost always smiling. OCHAI OGABA is used to standing out in a crowd and his mind, just like his frame, is no different. I sat with this dancer, rapper (?) and photographer to figure out how does this weird mind work. The answers were truly interesting and even inspiring.
I’m interested in dance, music and later photography. We started out copying MJ, Usher, Chris Brown and then as time went on we realised that we can eat from this thing las las. Then it now made sense that thing that I usually do for fun we can get something out of it. I am realising so many possibilities: I can do a production, toast a girl, get married, and feed my children, a whole lot. We can even do an interview from it (laughs)
People who are close to me know I love music. I even have a stage name: Omarrh. I’ve recorded songs, mostly rap. I still have some of my lines I can drop (laughs). I can still write good, meaningful music. I listen to Jay-Z, Kanye, Lecrae, Da Truth… They have influenced me. My brother (Selah) who is a musician even asks for my opinion because he believes I have a good taste in music. In fact next year I am doing an album, it’s a task I have given myself
Everything triggers it (my inspiration): my five sense organs, or six, I don’t know how many I have. What I listen to can inspire me – a song inspired a whole dance production. I see things differently and feel the need to express it the way I see it, same with music. Sometimes, like, I just do what I do because of the way I feel. Sometimes it just falls on my like “boom!” from nowhere and I get this restlessness. Anything can inspire me even perfume! Or incense or anything I smell. Other people’s art can inspire me too.
I don’t know who a gospel dancer or artist is. I’m just OCHAI OGABA. I put everything in my art. I don’t know why people always ask artists so that they know where to tag them. I’m not trying to tag or untag myself, this is just me and what I believe affects my art and what I express.
When it comes to resources it is quite difficult in this time and place but I won’t blame my timeline. I am persuaded to do this thing by any means. Like when I do some jobs I put up my money and put it into my art. There are few people who believe in what I do and support me with money or connections or their talents and we have built that relationship where we support ourselves.
The feedback I get is encouraging. People advise me to keep going – telling me that I’m good at what I do. Random people text me on social media and tell me about my impact in their lives. Sometimes these are girls and I think “they are just looking for a fine boy” (laughs) but they just drop their message and go. It really keeps me going.
There is a project this year, the biggest in my life, it is called MUD. This year I also want to complete a photography series called The Market – telling the stories of people in the market. I hope to travel too, explore other states and countries. It is a goal.
There is this problem of acceptance and value. Acceptance in terms of say, you can see me with a camera and you want to stone me to death. People are really sensitive when they see you with a camera and I feel threatened sometimes or embarrassed. People also don’t value stuff. You hear: ‘it’s something I can just snap with my phone.’ Okay then do it. Don’t call me. People don’t understand art so they don’t value it. If you say ‘I have people who can do this for free’ then call them! Artists are part of the problem too. I don’t want to stop artists from doing stuff for free but we need to make them understand that this thing has value and should be paid for. Artists too are devaluing the art market. You spend hours learning and practicing and they pay you lunch money
I just like to see that I’m not where I am now. That’s my vision. I want growth. Sometimes I am frustrated because I feel there is so much I can do. I want to reach out, I want people to see and feel what I have to offer. I feel like I’m in a cage and time is ticking. They think I am crazy but it is just that I have so much to let out. It is a wildfire in me and people think it is a candle light. I want to burn and I hope I am able to achieve that.