August: Artist Of The Month – Teff Theory

Another month, another artist for you to check out. This time, F3mininja brings an outstanding woman photographer by the name of Stephanie Nnamani or, as she is known by her moniker, Teff Theory. I reached out to Nnamani to see if she would be happy to answer a few questions of mine, as I did with Ibe Ananaba in the previous AOTM post, and she gladly indulged me. Thanks once again, Teff.

Who is Teff Theory?

Stephanie Nnamani aka Teff Theory

I think it’s always interesting to ask how one, especially in this line of work in the creative industry, would introduce themselves to others. This is a common question I tend to ask the artists if given the opportunity, so without fail, I did the same for Teff Theory. Nnamani, like many of us, found it difficult to actually talk about herself:

This question has me so stomped! Especially since I am terrible at talking about myself. Working on that, though!

So, whilst she continues to work on the ability to talk about herself, I’ll boast on her behalf: Stephanie Nnamani (Teff Theory) is an award-winning Nigerian visual artist whose talent is limitless. Being self-taught, Nnamani has gone on to exhibit her self-portraits and other projects at spaces such as Getty Images Gallery here in London and ARGONAUT Gallery in San Francisco. She is also the founder and creative director of Studio Theory. Coming from a social science degree background — shoutout to the social scientists — Nnamani fuses her knowledge and creativity within the art discipline to unravel concepts linked with being a Nigerian immigrant. As a first-generation Nigerian immigrant myself, I am familiar with the feeling of Otherness which Nnamani seeks to examine. Lastly, colour — especially orange — is of utmost importance to Nnamani in her photography. Perusing her Instagram page, you are greeted with the warmth of colours in every image that makes scrolling down her page a delight.

Teff Theory
From ‘The Black Victorian’ series (2017)

To my question about items that are crucial to her creativity in her studio (or wherever she may be when working), Nnamani says the following:

The Sun (I live for natural light!), my Self (I am a resource), and water – lots of water since I typically don’t eat before a session.

Nnamani certainly is a resource; with an eye such as hers, there is no contesting that. I couldn’t probe further to understand why Nnamani doesn’t eat before a session, whether that adds to her creative process, maybe? Reading her response, I smiled at the fact that The Sun is a necessity for her given the colours you’ll find on her website and Instagram ignites imagery of the yellow dwarf star.

In response to my question on what pushed her into visual art, Nnamani states:

My siblings were incredibly imaginative growing up, my parents encouraged that in all of us. Mine grew intensely with time, manifesting itself first in writing at an early age, then photography, briefly in sketching, and who knows where else it will unfold. For the sake of contextualising my work, I find I am constantly drawn to exploring concepts of absence, presence, and Otherness, especially as it pertains to that part of me that is first-generation Nigerian immigrant. After spending much of my formative years away from Nigeria, returning 13 years later I decided to sink deep into memories, not just my own, but that of those who came before me.  I can say, now, that I am drawn to visual art for the sake of examining, seizing, and shifting identity, and most importantly, reclaiming and adequately managing memory.

As aforementioned, Nnamani’s talent is boundless. From writing to photography and sketching, she is not confined to one discipline/medium and her ever-evolving nature is one to behold. Wherever else it takes her, it is welcomed. Here, in her reasoning for why she is drawn to visual art, Nnamani’s social science degree background echoes as she seeks to ‘examine, seize and shift identity’ after her long-awaited return back to her country of birth. Nnamani’s work is extremely personal and is an ongoing journey of identity and so it was of little surprise when asked if she could name 5 black artists that inspired her, her response being:

My creative journey is incredibly personal and spiritual. I don’t consume nearly enough work from Other artists, though that is another thing I am working on exploring.

teff theory 3
From ‘Maskurade’ series (2016)

With photography, I often wonder when a work is ‘complete’. Is it after the image has been captured? Or maybe it’s after endless editing, cutting and deleting? How does one know? Is it instinctual? To this question on knowing when a work is ‘complete’, Nnamani said the following:

As someone who champions the importance of Artists learning and allowing what ‘complete’ looks like for them and their work, I don’t believe a body of work is ever truly complete. I say this because my work operates intimately as a network of works, with one relying on the other to create an immersive, cohesive experience.

Lastly, for my bonus question, Nnamani answered what she hopes consumers of her art get from it:

I hope that people will understand how important movement is to me; how important rhythm is to me, (inter-)connectivity, and colour. And I hope it awakes in them the desire to cultivate or (re)claim the same for themselves.

Throughout this month, Nnamani will be releasing 3 projects on her website. The first, Of The Soil And Soul, has a short video via Vimeo. Be sure to check and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Nnamani will also be having her first NYC exhibition in September at Photoville with Getty Images, so be sure to check that out. See you next month for another AOTM and follow F3mininja for more posts such as this!

Image not my own. Taken from Teff Theory website and/or Instagram.

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