A person climbing a pawpaw tree, a man chasing after a chicken and a mother breastfeeding her child… part of the ordinary village scenery in Africa and some of the subjects brought to life in the paintings of internationally acclaimed, award-winning artist Shiri Achu.
The Cameroonian-born Achu’s images evoke our memories and make us realise that these ordinary moments of people going about their daily lives are actually special and should be savoured and treasured.
In her first visit to Australia for the christening ceremony of her Goddaughter, Achu who is now based in Washington DC also showcased her paintings and raised funds to support the completion of construction works in ‘Santa’ village (North West Province) in Cameroon. In particular, the funding was for roofing the village Sunday school building.
Salt magazine had a chat with Shiri to talk about her 37InPrint: Adelaide’ Exhibition held in July at Mama Jambo café and her penchant for painting.
Shiri started painting when she was nine and even as she studied for an architecture degree, she was still painting. She never stopped.
She prefers acrylics and oils as she brings to life vivid sceneries using form, colour, texture and tone.
“Painting is a feeling…it’s just like knowing ok that something that I have to paint and then I have to paint it. I enjoy the whole process I like the process of knowing something is not quite right and I have to tweak it… I’m going to change the colour and make it slightly more blue, slightly more pink,” she said.
Everyday life in Africa is a profound inspiration for Shiri. Having to leave Cameroon at a young age for the UK she grew up with a sense of longing and feeling like she missed out on her childhood dreams.
“There are certain things I wanted to do when I was growing up in Cameroon, like climb trees, just kid stuff…so when I went back later on as grown up I felt oh my God, they’re climbing trees and started having these oh my gosh moments ..Whether it’s a woman carrying her baby on her back everything I see I wanted to paint.”
But Shiri says she’s happy and would love to open an art school in Cameroon and have her own TV show. “Just like the Voice blind auditions (laugh), paintings to be displayed in public for people to choose without knowing the artist”.
Shiri explained how she created the titles for her recent exhibitions: comes about Shiri said “Knowing that I had to do a series of exhibitions, I decided to call the first one 35 in prints in London because I had 35 pieces that I wanted to exhibit and then I did 36 in DC and of course 37 here in Adelaide and now I’m looking at doing up to 40.”
The response to Shiri’s painting has been good and has acted as a motivating factor for her to keep going. “It’s been great and I feel blessed to see the British buying my paintings and hanging them in their homes, it’s like a billboard for people to go to Africa” said Shiri.
Shiri’s paintings will be exhibited at Mama Jambo from Monday 31st October – Saturday 26th November. For more information about her work visit her website.