Shiri Achu is an Awardee of the Arts Category in Ayoo Africa’s 2020 Top Ten D.C Awards.
“I looked into my studio and realized that there was a painting that I had not worked on in a year. I wanted to finish the painting, and then I thought, there must be poetry to go with it.” – Shiri Achu
Let’s be honest, trying to find the silver lining during this on-going COVID-19 crisis is hard! Shiri Achu, an artist whose paintings vividly reflect and showcase African culture, is also a full-time Architect and a mother. Phew! She admits that these are challenging times.
Shiri celebrated her tenth-year painting anniversary last year. Four exhibitions were planned. The first in London, (she was born in Cameroon, raised in the United Kingdom and is now based here in Maryland), the second at the Embassy of Cameroon here in Washington, D.C, the third at a local Community College and the final one in Cameroon this Spring. The first three went according to plan and were well attended, but, unfortunately, because of COVID-19, her trip and exhibition scheduled in Cameroon couldn’t happen.
She also admits that working full-time, now at home because of the crisis, having to manage her small business and make sure her children are doing their online schoolwork, has been “very interesting.”
How did the artist pivot?
“I looked in my studio and realized that there was a painting I had not worked on in a year. I wanted to finish it, and then thought that there must be poetry to go with it. Since we are all indoors, why not make it in such a way that people can submit poetry based on the painting, and turn it into a competition. I was then inspired to finish the painting live on Facebook.”
“Under normal circumstances, I would never open my world to people, but I invited people in. Twenty people sent in poems, everyone loved seeing me paint, and the engagement on social media has increased.”
What is the secret potion, especially during these times?
“For me, it’s to keep the fire burning, and the passion alive. I think that once you have that, you will keep going.”
How are you balancing full-time work as an architect and painting?
“I’m blessed because both my fields are in the creative world, so my architecture feeds into my art, and vice versa. I’m passionate about both of them. For me, it’s always about keeping focused. Seeing ahead and your end point, and then working towards it.”
Has there been a silver lining?
“It’s (the lockdown) given me time to stay in, and actually produce art.”