According to Pablo Picasso, every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. DTigress’ power forward, Cecilia “Silk” Okoye overcame that and grew up to become a mural artist, a professional athlete, and a sports management expert.
Having won Gold with the women’s senior national team at the 2017 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket in Mali, won silver with the First Bank Basketball Team at the FIBA Africa Champions Cup for Women in Angola, and created an artistic masterpiece of Malcolm X, Rev King and Barack Obama that went viral, we can conclude that The Silk One combines art and basketball perfectly.
Okoye came into contact with art at an early age when she watched her siblings sketch. She followed suit and started sketching with pencils and coloring.
`I wanted to draw just like them so that`s what got me started. It was in 2015 that I realized I can also create using acrylic paint`
We sat down with her to discuss her love for arts.
What’s the name behind the name – Silk?
I actually made that nickname up with my friend when I was 14 or 15. We jokingly wanted to go by different names because we were both going to new schools where they didn`t know us, to my surprise it stuck. Even the teachers and coaches were calling me Silk.
Why mural art? How being a mural artist separates you from other types of art?
I love murals, I think what makes it fun for me is the fact that someone likes your art so much they trust you to paint on their wall. It’s also cool using a wall as a canvas, something that got you in trouble as a child now being requested and paid for. (laughs)
It is believed that basketball is a form of art – the seamless flow of the play and synchronization of the players. For someone who lives in both worlds, what do you think?
Yes definitely, I believe you can find art in all things. In basketball, I do see the art in the flow and synchronization like you stated earlier, I think there are many other things in the game of basketball that is a form of art, for example, ball handling. Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Seimone Augustus, Kyrie Irving, etc. are good examples of the creativity behind that. Passing; Pistol Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson, Ricky Rubio, etc... I can go on and on!
Does being an artist makes you a better basketball player and vice versa?
For me personally, they both act as a stress reliever to help clear my mind and in return can make me more effective in both activities.
Is art just leisure for you or do you have full-time plans?
It is just a leisure activity, for now, I did sell my art more than a year ago but I wouldn`t say that made me pro but it is a dream to become a professional artist. If I could choose I`d be a full-time artist after I`m done playing basketball or be pro in both art and basketball now.
You seem to have a preference for art videos. We’ve seen quite a number on your social media pages.
Yes, I`m more fascinated with the process of creating the art than the finished art piece itself. I think there is art in the creation of art which makes the finished piece come alive more and gets the viewer more connected with the finished piece as well. I just like finding different ways to create.
What thought process do you go through before embarking on a particular project? Where do you draw inspiration from?
Honestly, I would brainstorm while I go about my day and just think `it would be cool if I could pull this off` then I`d just go for it. It would just come to me, it`s hard to explain.
Is there a particular story you tell or message you share through your paintings?
There`s a few I try to tell a story with, for example, the Malcolm X, Obama, & MLK mural is telling a story, but the other ones are just portraits of maybe my favorite rapper, singer, etc.
Of all your projects, which do you consider your most favorite and what makes it special?
That`s a tough one, it`s a tie between my Tupac & B.I.G painting because that one came out closest to what I envisioned in my head, and also the J Cole `No Role Modelz` painting, because that was the first time I put music lyrics together with art.
Representing Nigeria at the Afrobasket Women’s Tournament was a dream come true for you. Not only did you represent the country, you won a gold medal and a spot in the 2018 FIBA World Cup in your first appearance. Do you have such goals or dreams for arts?
Yes, of course, the dream would be to have famous murals everyone knows about like the artist Banksy or to have my art make it to Urban Art Museums in the future. But it`s only a dream at this point. Hopefully, later on, I will have time to actually pursue that dream but as of now I have to give my 100% to basketball
Should we expect an artwork that tells your basketball story?
Yes definitely! At the moment it`s just a thought process and I will need to brainstorm to find a creative way to tell this story using art.
As she sets out to represent Nigeria at the 2018 Women`s FIBA World Cup, we hope she finds inspiration in the Island of Tenerife to create more amazing pieces.