Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Meet a PNB Ambassador: Shiri Achu, Artist, Painter & Architect.

Shiri Achu

My name is Shiri Achu Morcho and my heritage is deeply planted in the North West Region of Cameroon.  My father – Baforchu; My mother - Awing.

I currently live between London and USA and I'm an Artist/Painter and an Architect. I qualified as an Architect in 2006 and practiced for a number of years but when the economy plummeted, I saw myself taking a rather natural turn to what is inherently a great love - painting! I've always wanted to work as both an Artist and an Architect, so I'm pleased that today, I am.

As an Architect, I have worked with Foster and Partners in London and Berlin and worked for Scott Brownrigg in Covent Garden, London. Privately I undertake small commissioned jobs.

As an Artist - Shiri Achu of SHIRIACHUART -  my art comes from everyday unsurprising yet unexpectedly vivid moments, times, places and objects. I draw insight from my travels particularly from natural moments captured in Africa especially my home country – Cameroon.

I have been awarded The Best Artist in Brent by the Brent Council, London, UK. I was short listed and appeared on the BBC art show - ‘Show me the Monet’ in July 2012 and notable icons such as football legend Roger Milla, and Grammy award singer Faith Evans own my art. My art sells at The Smithsonian/National museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA as well as in Prague, Lisbon, Australia, Cameroon and numerous other cities around the world.

I have painted a grandmother pounding Achu, women mixing yellow Achu soup, a young girl climbing a pawpaw tree, a mother carrying her child on her back etc. These are all typical scenes found in Cameroon painted to express just how beautiful those simple everyday moments (showcasing the culture of Cameroon) can be. I exhibit and promote my work in the West so that they can see a little of Cameroon and learn a little of the culture.

What is particularly thrilling to me is the fact that when people (especially from the western world) buy my work, they are expressing their love for and celebrating the culture of Cameroon. I’m excited to share that two of my paintings (1.1.11 Baforchu celebrates and 1.1.11 Baforchu big men celebrate) depicting the ‘toghu’ the traditionally embroidered clothing worn by the North West Region have been purchased by many people from various corners of the world.

1.1.11 Bachorfu celebrates

1.1.11 Baforchu big men celebrate

The people of the North West Region are humble, peaceful, hard working and determined to develop their Region. I admire their spirit, their culture, and their determination. These reasons motivate me to express myself and the culture, the best way I can, through my paintings.

I would love to continue in being involved in the development of the North-West Region through my art. Painting more to promote the culture worldwide. My wish would be to see an increase in tourism as a result of people seeing my art. I paint to express the culture and the spirit of its people so I wish for people in the Western world to be intrigued by what they see and have a desire to visit.

My dreams and hopes for Bamenda and the North-West Region are many; As much as I would love to see the increase number of interest/tourism which would hopefully boost the economy, I pray for good arts schools in Bamenda and the North West. I know there are very many talented artists in Cameroon who are not given the opportunity to express themselves in their arts due to lack of facilities for training and developing as well as parents only wishing their children to follow the very straight academic route to becoming a doctor, teacher etc.

I visited Kenya and came back mesmerized by the Maasai and their culture – I thought, hold on, I already knew the Maasai even before I went to Kenya! I then made a somewhat abstract painting ‘Maasai tone’ which people recognize instantly as the ‘Maasai’ - even though the men in the painting are faceless! They are recognized just by their stance and their robes! I am fascinated by this. If I could only get that sort of worldwide recognition for a single tribe in Cameroon that would be fantastic!! With the many various diverse cultures and practices in each region in Cameroon, and representing Bamenda, I will aspire to do this with the ‘toghu’, amongst others who celebrate the ‘toghu’ through fashion etc

‘Project New Bamenda’ is a fantastic and forward thinking initiative and makes a lot of sense! I am so excited and honored to be given the opportunity to be part of this great movement. I thank the Initiators for their wisdom and love for the North West Region and in this initiative.
Bamenda is sitting, stirring and ready to explode. I am going to be so excited and present, when it does.

One last One

My favourite dish
Choosing from the myriad of wonderful dishes, I would have to say my favourite meal from Bamenda is Achu.

My favourite place
Bamenda Station (from that top point, looking down)

My favourite proverb
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever.

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