The Huts Magazine is a contemporary art magazine co-founded by Nigerian sisters, Bardi Tosobuafo Matilda and Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine.
You are a sister team based out of Nigeria, both with a strong passion towards the arts. When did you first realize your love for art, and have the two of you always collaborated on creative projects?
Honestly, our love for art goes way back, when we were much younger – secondary school actually. Catherine was always the creative one like our uncle, always drawing and painting with whatever she had, while Matilda stayed back watching, wanting to learn the craft. Then university happened and Matilda magically got whisked to study Fine art and Catherine, Theatre arts with an elective in Graphics and textile design. So, art has always been a part of us from the onset.
Until the birth of ‘The Huts Magazine’ we have never really collaborated on any other creative projects.
It’s wonderful that you were able to launch something as proactive as The Huts Magazine during the unsettling time of the pandemic. Can you share with us what sparked the idea, and what it was like to initially get this project off the ground?
The Huts Magazine was Catherine’s idea, but teamwork made it into a reality. You must know, the magazine started when the pandemic was at its peak, where fear was our daily bread and lockdown placed us in inevitable jails. And we wanted to get out of it, badly. Matilda went to her canvas while Catherine went to her laptop, writing stories she would one day share with the world. Combining our talents, we thought we could assist individuals during the bad time, while taking care of fear problems. This was our way to escape the harsh reality of life. When we started, our target was Nigerian artists specifically but so many were unwilling to respond to our emails, text, dm… it was an emotionally damaging moment for us. We cannot really pinpoint what led to our next move, but somehow, we found ourselves messaging international artists – Emerson Wang and Jessica Schweizer. We can never forget their names. They were our ticket to starting our journey and we thank them for that. They gave us the confidence we needed to pull it off.
In the beginning we made mistakes of course. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s your ability to grow from them that creates the real magic. We were going hard at everything without taking a moment to reason that things needed to jump on water stones to get to the end. We were flying without walking, and this took a toll on us. It was overwhelming. So we took a break for over four months to plan and get our heads out of the sand. So yeah, we had a rough start and we learned how to get out of it, and we’re still learning to improve on what we already have.
What kinds of qualities, aesthetic or otherwise, do you look for when selecting the artists that you showcase?
Actually, we don’t ask for much. Almost all of our showcased artists are gotten from Instagram, since that’s where we began. At first, we just chose whatever upcoming artist who would show up at our doorstep needing exposure, and we were always happy to place them in our magazine. Then we grew up mentally. We became mature after a long break to finish up school. We realized, these artists needed the right exposure, and we weren’t giving them that. So, we messaged galleries, magazine stores in Europe willing to accept a hard copy from us. It was at this time we knew what truly makes art, art. You can scribble whatever you want on a canvas and throw in colours and name it whatever you want without realizing the lack of connection those two substances have. So, looking past the beautiful visuals, we personally look for the emotional connection of the works, the overall theme, understanding why the artist does what he/she does. There should be a sort of unique voice, originally to the piece presented to us. We do not like it when young artists copy, because they want to achieve the same glory another artist has, and they fail, woefully in fact. They miss the whole essence of art creation. So yeah, we just want to see a promising art piece that speaks visually and creates a connection with the audience.
What do you find most rewarding about the curations and editing process?
We get to learn. Sitting and going through all those numerous artworks gives us an opportunity to learn about art styles we’ve never seen or heard before. Reading through their statements open new doors to connect with the person behind the words – what they’re feeling, what they’re going through, how they perceive society and what not. We get plugged into whatever they have to say and charge up (100%) at the end of it.
What are some of the challenges that you face? Currently we are facing a handful of challenges in our current stage. It is quite difficult balancing our personal work with the magazine. Until recently, both of us have been the editor, social media manager, curator, designer, and technical director- it was hectic. We’ve recently employed a social media manager and co-editor to lessen the work overload, even at that, we have to make sure they do it right. We would stay up late at times, but we always enjoy the process as long as we achieve our goals in the end.
Do you have future plans for The Huts Magazine beyond what you are doing today?
Yes. We certainly have plans for the future. Big ones in-fact. So this year, we are holding our second international virtual exhibition for artists in June, curated by Gita Joshi. After this, we plan to take a break from exhibitions and focus more on competitions. We feel that would help build and encourage emerging artists from our local communities, here in Nigeria. We also want to bridge the gap between Nigerian and international artists – a method we would employ to help make locally made works reach their peak. There will be interactions provided to educate and communicate and know more about what the outside Nigeria looks like. So basically this is us bringing Art home and taking Art outside.