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Kingsley Onyeiwu: Exploring Beauty Through Art

Kingsley Powers Onyiweu invited me into his world. I attended his Hooks-Epstein Gallery show and he then took me into his workspace at Houston Baptist University. 

Following is our conversation about his work, why he decided to get into art, and a little bit about his process.


Iveoma Okparaeke: Thank you for talking with me. What made you interested in art?

Kingsley Onyiweu: I got into art because it was a calling for me. It was a way for me to express myself. I wanted to say a lot and I wanted to see the world so much. But I wasn’t seeing anything around me.  My art is in my head, a part of my imagination. I am always imagining a painting or drawing.

Iveoma Okparaeke: What weren’t you seeing around you?

Kingsley Onyiweu: My ideas of beauty. When I was little and drawing cartoon figures, I wanted my art to speak for me. I also wanted to do something that I believed in. It took me a while to get to a place that my art speaks for me.


Iveoma Okparaeke: Well finding your voice is a part of growing up.

Kingsley Onyiweu: Exactly. Also, I was not in a place that really encouraged art.

Iveoma Okparaeke: What do you mean?

Kingsley Onyiweu: I was in Nigeria. I was born in Nigeria and went to nursery, secondary, and primary school in Nigeria.

Iveoma Okparaeke: I see. When did you move to the States?

Kingsley Onyiweu: I moved over here at the age of 14. I guess it was fate. My mother felt Nigeria was not the best place for me at the time. She wanted me to move over here. Well, she did not send me here with the intentions of me studying art. Definitely not, it was because of the possibilities of better schooling and better a life. So we moved over here and some of my teachers encouraged me to study art.

Iveoma Okparaeke: They saw your talent through your cartoon drawings.

Kingsley Onyiweu: Yes. I was in class making comic book sketches or comic strips. I never saw art as a possibility because it seemed like wishful thinking. I could not shake the thought that people would not take me seriously if I was not an engineer or a doctor. Then in high school I met my first art teacher, Harry Mcguinness. He really saw the potential in me. He retired before I gradated high school but he was my first mentor.

From there I went to Texas Southern University. That is where I really met professional African American artists, all my professors were well known professionals. People like Robert Pruitt, Leamon Green, and Dr. Alvia Wardlaw my art history teacher/ boss/ mentor. You met her at the Gallery.

Iveoma Okparaeke: Yes, she is amazing. I also know it was inspiring to see people who look like you achieving a dream that seemed impossible.

Kingsley Onyiweu: Yes exactly. I thank my professors because I am so appreciative that they supported me.

Iveoma Okparaeke: Do you plan to pursue art full time after you graduate? How are you going to make a living?

Kingsley Onyiweu: I do not know yet. I might become a professor. I do want to be a professional artist. Wake up and go to my studio and work on my art and sell it. However, if that is not helping pay the bills than I will go into teaching.

Iveoma Okparaeke: The one thing that drew me to your work was the fact that the women look alive. A lot of your work is so realistic; your attention to their faces is amazing.

Kingsley Onyiweu: I like when my work appears to be realistic, it doesn’t seem to have a point if it is not realistic. I know my fellow artists, especially abstract artists, will argue that it doesn’t have to be realistic in order to have a meaning. I am not like that; my art needs to be realistic depictions.

**All artwork was created by Kingsley Onyeiwu, all pictures where taken by Iveoma Okparaeke **


Kingsley Onyeiwu graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Southern University in May 2016. He was the Summer Studios 2015 resident at Project Row Houses. Kingsley is at Houston Baptist University pursing a MFA in Painting. He currently lives in Houston, Texas.


Facebook: Kingsley Powers Onyeiwu



Podcast: Iveoma
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