The Heart is a Shield: The Journey of Paul Sika and the Art of Photomaking
By Eye Candy
June 11, 2013
A redux on Art and creation from AFROPUNK Contributor Kathryn Buford, for ‘Live Unchained’. Read original article and more HERE
Like all good journey’s, Paul Sika‘s is full of beautiful people, risk, drama (but not the petty kind) and personal revelations. A multimedia artist, he captures all this complexity in bold, saturated and cinematic images. Paul calls his approach “photomaking” as it bridges photography and filmmaking. Around the world, people are praising this vibrant aesthetic as Paul has been celebrated in various outlets like CNN, Forbes, BBC and The New York Times who call him “a multimedia prodigy.”
By: Kathryn Buford for Live Unchained
I had an a-ha moment when reviewing the art and essays in his bestelling book At The Heart of Me: What if our hearts don’t need protection because they are our protectors? What if, as Paul believes, the heart is a shield? For Paul, the heart is not just the fragile most sensitive aspect of ourselves that needs protection, it is our guard and compass. Describing the title piece from his bestselling art book, he shares: “As a woman shields herself with a good heart in tune with life, she will also attract and be more perceptible to a man who shields himself with a good heart in tune with the great values of life.”
In this intimate interview, Paul shares what he offers all of his appreciators, a peek into his heart and a step into his journey. We learned that Paul’s vision for his creative experiences is much more than professional success as we discuss his creative process, what makes the heart a shield and why, as a Pan-Africanist and “Life-ist”, he looks forward to a woman president of the “United States of Africa.”
In just one sentence, how would you describe At The Heart of Me?
“At The Heart of Me” is a blueprint for bringing balance to Africa, with Africa being a model for the world.
Can you share the story behind the image that the book is named after?
“At the Heart of Me” portrays the story of a young woman of virtuous behavior. And as her heart opens up to the natural aspiration of love for a man, she feels a little bit of funny unrest as she is wondering about the outcome of all that she is feeling and going through. Historically speaking this series was themed after Valentine’s Day. The young woman, played by Murielle Nanié, Miss Cote d’Ivoire 2008, is not sure about what would happen on the special night. Will the young man she thinks about invite her for dinner? Will he even phone? Does he even consider such a thing?
And if we see the young woman calm, it is because she is of the great type. Indeed she understands her emotions and navigates them well.
And, I love this quote from Chapter 1, “At The Heart of Me”: “O women, do seek it! You shall be loved for the heart of you.” Why do you think this saying to women resonated with you?
This saying to women resonated with me because of the illusions many women are trapped in.
Many women use body centered strategies to attract men. The problem is that, that which you have attracted with, will only be as effective as its lifetime. And the body is something that evolves, subject to time. Thus a relationship sought only based on physical perception is bound to fail.
And also a knowledgeable man will not go to a woman who is obviously trying to attract men because he understands that this reflects deeper problems, themselves signs of a lack of maturity.
The heart is the repository of thoughts and this is where righteousness is stored. As a woman shields herself with a good heart in tune with life, she will also attract and be more perceptible to a man who shields himself with a good heart in tune with the great values of life. And as those values are bound to that which is eternal, such a union is of the most beautiful ones.
You’ve described the book as: “The visual and written first witness account of a young man who aspires to attain the African Dream.” What is your African Dream?
Simply put, I would say that the African Dream is the promise from life itself that, as an African, if you follow its real and essential laws, you will surely realize your dream.
It is Life saying: “You are Afri-can, you can dream!”.
Thus Being an African is not a tragedy. Indeed Africa can be seen as simply a context, a departure point, for the beautiful adventure of reaching perfection. And there is no greater dream, therefore all are realizable. You are African, you can.
You call your work “photomaking.” And, just like a filmmaker, you create a narrative and direct a cast. Can you tell us about the creative process of photomaking?
My process indeed follows the steps of filmmaking. Starting with imagining the story, I will commit it to writing when it reaches a certain level of maturity. Then I break the script into sequences from which I will take the most significant. As this is done, a casting will be carried out in order to match models, actors and actresses with the roles.
If necessary we rehearse and then have principal photography. Once it is a wrap, I work in post production adding layers to equalize the photo with my vision.
You’ve said to be African means: “To understand that someday, a woman will be president of the United States of Africa.” Why do you feel this way?
I feel this way in the African context because I believe I’ve had a glimpse of what is away. And that will also be a sign of a great evolutionary step for Context Africa.
The statement of a woman being president of the United States of Africa is simply a statement. If it has value for Africa, it is for at least one thing: to bring correction and more balance in the perception the dwellers of Context Africa have of themselves.
To end, I will say that the importance I attribute to the good care and perception of women is in a way summed up in my saying: “a country whose girls do not have access to education is a country not even half blessed.”
How do African women inspire you artistically? Personally?
I tend to look at people past the “context” of the departure point, therefore my inspiration is from another sphere which includes women and more. In my newest collection entitled “Lilian’s Appeal”, the stories take place in an alternative world and in it there is the concept of Paisley which has been shared from generation to generation and here is its two-fold definition: Paisley is that which is the most beautiful in the world; Paisley is when you have the right amount of all things.
This is to say: My inspiration comes from Paisley.
In Chapter 7, “The Macedoine Children,” you share: “The kids are adorable but they live in tough conditions. The kids are adorable but to them nobody pays attention… The truth is, although the government should take its responsibilities, I am not waiting for any affinities. If they do it, good. If they don’t, I was no fool.” Do you think art can help?
What can people do to help the children? To look at them as their own.
Yes Art can help a lot, many ways. For example, it can be a method of expression and a door to crafts that will later sustain the children as independent beings. Art can also be used to instruct them and help them have a good level of know-how.
You are from the Ivory Coast, and to my knowledge all of the photo films take place there. But, I notice that in many of your other interviews you use the word African to describe yourself and your art. Of course, the Ivory Coast is in Africa, but, is your decision to see your art as a representation of Africans broadly, intentional?
You have made a remarkable notice.
In my nature or habits, it does not feel right to limit my brackets to Ivory Coast.
For me the least unit it should be attached to is the continent known as Africa. And even better to the planet of which Ivory Coast would eventually be a district.
As for whether I am a Pan-Africanist. I am not. I am a Human-ist. And I will go even beyond; I am a Life-ist.
My vision of unity is at universal level.
You’ve said: “This book will serve Africa and its lovers…” What do you want your viewers and readers to take away from this work? Is art an act of service?
I believe there is a very large section of the population that will benefit from this book in terms of inner growth and understanding that will ease one’s experience as in navigating this world, which can be difficult when one holds the wrong thoughts about things around us. In that sense “At the heart of Me” is a stream of thoughts, a state of mind shared through pictures and words, that if accepted by the beholder will bring significant balance in their life.
As to whether art is an act of service, I will answer by sharing a fact: A young French woman visited Ivory Coast and came to the exhibition of my latest collection Lilian’s Appeal at Cécile Fakhoury’s gallery. As I gave her and others a guided tour of the exhibition and the works, she was attentive and silent. Later on Facebook she sent me a message saying that she had been very much touched by the world developed and shown in “Lilian’s Appeal” and that she found herself receiving answers to existential questions she had had. Thus, we pose the case for art that is valuable to the fellow human being. And thankfully, we are succeeding in it.
And I will end by saying that: Deep art is also compassionate art; It will speak to the young and speak to the old. It will entertain the novice and inform the expert; it will cuddle the weak and whisper to the traveler.
What do you think is one of the most important things you’ve learned about yourself through this project?
My greatest achievement is not material. It is to have gone beyond the theory of it to practically understand that Life is a system with principles that one ought to know in order to achieve their greatest potential.
Anything else you’d like to share?
“At the Heart of Me” was originally written in English and it is my wish to make the book available in several more languages to widely share its contents. As of now, the French version is coming out soon and the Italian version is in the works. I am willing to have the book available in Japanese, German, Spanish and many more.
There are other projects in the pipeline that will gladly mention when they are more advanced.
If there is anybody out there interested in contributing one way or the other, be it for a translation, an exhibition or anything else, just contact me. It would be a pleasure to exchange.
Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?
Free from all defects, To act beautifully in harmony with Life and its principles at all times.
Written by Kathryn Buford of Live Unchained