G R E E N
In Conversation with Tosin Alabi
SA: Can you introduce yourself to the people…
TA: Yaga yoo!!
TA: Im joking!... My friends call me Tosin - Oluwatosin…yeah that’s my name *laughs*. What do you want to know, like?
SA: Ok, let’s start from the beginning. When I first came to you with the concept to discuss colour, do you remember your response or why you agreed to having fun and creating content?
TA: No I do not remember my response. But, I feel like anything you do I want to support anyway and two, I feel like colour plays a big part in the lens in which I live life. So I think it’s interesting to explore colour.
SA: Ok cool. So… the colour that you picked was GREEN! Which is cute because that is my Mum’s favourite colour as well.
TA: Is it!?
SA: Yeah. Yeah.
TA: But it can’t be no like lime green!
SA: It’s a particular green!?
TA: Yeah baby gurl!
SA: That’s so funny *laughs*
TA: It’s a proper forest green. Ouf!... giving you regal vibes. You know me I’m bougie boy! Regal! *laughs*
SA: Yeah… it’s true.
TA: The streets call me bougie, but… you know…
SA: Who calls you bougie?
TA: The streets! AKA Sandra Abode!
SA: I’m sooo done!
SA: When I initially asked you what your relationship with the colour green was, this was your response.
SA: Line for line can you expand on each point.
TA: Of course! Everyone is creative, but for a long time I have realised that everything I do is a creative outlet for me.
What do I mean by that?... I do things that allow me to feel.
Why is that?... Because I think it’s important to feel. I find it hard to express myself with words, I find it hard to articulate myself in terms of how I feel. I tend to show my feelings in the expression of creativity, whatever that creative outlet is. That is basically what I mean.
I wouldn’t say I was mute, but I didn’t really speak that much, but funny enough, as quiet and shy as I was I used to dance a lot as a kid. You would think I was so shy, but as soon as I’d hear music I would dance so I think that sense of feeling and not speaking has been there from early.
SA: That is very interesting that you say that because I feel like we have more in common than we have spoken about before in terms of coming from a quiet demeanour but being very active in creative expression.
Do you remember that time we went to Brighton for a retreat with Hillsong? It was the introduction night for everyone to meet and they hosted a party, there was vibes playing and we were dancing…
TA: Oh my days! I remember
SA: *laughs*... we were doing a whole routine, I don’t even know...
TA: I think it was ‘You Got Served’!
SA: mate… listen yeah, there was one move that we did that was so in sync. The kick. The drop. The turn… everything
SA: ...was so in sync and from then I was like I fux with this girl. Yeah she’s a friend for life! I was so gobsmacked, that was a beautiful moment that I will cherish.
TA: *laughs* Yeah, I remember… but do you know what is so funny? We tend to have those moments anyway even at this stage in our friendship. Dancing especially is a creative outlet for us.
SA: I hear that and resonate with it completely! Feel your feels!... then the words will come after.
TA: I don’t even feel like my words even come…
SA: I was literally just about to say… and if they don’t, that’s ok. I think the most important is feeling the feels, because I’m sure some of us to a degree understand what it feels like when things are suppressed and the effects it has. Feeling is ultimately a way to release.
SA: You spoke on dance previously and I guess we can open this up a bit. I would say that you have a natural talent for dance but presently you are opening up other forms of expression. Can you talk more on the skill that you are currently developing?
TA: Yass! So… I don’t professionally dance but I be dancing in my room you know… with my girls I be dancing, so it’s definitely a creative outlet. I used to be part of dance group actually when I was in Year 4 and we won a talent show… you know how I roll *laughs*
In terms of my creative outlets I would say… acting, curating exhibitions and recently photography. I’ve always liked taking photos, people used to say ‘you’ve got an eye for photography’.
I only took it serious literally at the beginning of this year. Someone reached out to me and said they wanted me to take photos for them, it was actually a friend and he was willing to pay and asked me ‘what are you rates?’ and I’m thinking… ‘what are my rates!?... I need to come up with some rates!’ *laughs*
...I thought of a price, gave it to him and from then, word of mouth, social media… emails started coming through and I started getting bookings for photography and now it’s become another outlet for me.
I love creating, maybe because I think that I mainly enjoy the process of creating. The finished product - don’t ever get me wrong, is always rewarding but I think the process is my favourite part. When it comes to curating and acting the process is always hard but for some reason, I like hard. I like difficult because in those moments comes growth, I tend to grow in the process so that’s why I enjoy it because I see a growing Tosin if you get what I mean.
SA: Yes. I hear you.
TA: Yeah… so that is the reason I love creating because of the process. When it comes to creating with others I think I like... *pauses* do you know what’s so funny!? When I create I like to create alone but I don’t mind collaborating. I like to do the initial birthing of ideas by myself, I like to be alone in solitude and bring out those ideas. Once I have the idea then I would meet with another creative person and be like ‘I’ve got this idea. Are you down?’... and then we can exchange. But I normally always have the initial idea and I don't budge with or take it back, I lead with that and that’s it.
I do enjoy meeting other people because two heads are always better than one. I like meeting, exchanging ideas. Most people that I meet are free, there is hardly any control but a freedom with one another.
It’s not like if I said ‘I want this…’ and the other person says ‘No! I wanted that though!’... It's very cooperative and easy going, I like the free flow of it. I don’t think I’ve worked with anyone yet that has expressed that they don’t like an idea.
You probably already know but I have a big thing for artists. Not artists as in musicians but visual artists - painting, sculpture etc. One of my favourite artists is Yayoi Kusama; it's so beautiful to know that people can be going through difficulty and use their difficulty to be a form of art. This woman… I’m just so in awe of her. I don’t even know how old she is, maybe in her 90s?... but even as I speak now she is currently in a mental home but she is still creating work. People will see her work and people will say it looks dope but this is actually created from her mind, she used to hallucinate and see these things and now these things are literally her work and are being exhibited across the world! That is amazing to me.
I feel like that takes a certain type of strength to do that because some things that we see as trauma or dark pain some people can’t tap into that and use it as creativity… it’s too painful to even share or to even utter words to speak about. I think it takes real strength and bravery to say ‘this is something that has tormented me for so long, but I’m going to use as a gift to the world’. Honestly, it’s beautiful. I do appreciate when people do that and share apart of themselves with us.
I appreciate that in every creative sphere actually and I don’t just mean that in the entertainment industry because creativity isn’t only limited to that. In anything when someone shares a piece of them *pauses* I really appreciate that, I don’t take it for granted.
SA: I feel you. Thank you!... for sharing a piece of you because this is you sharing. 100% with Yayoi Kusama… when her work is back in London I would love to take in her world so I will be on the look out for the dates.
You spoke on your three forms of outlet; acting, curating and photography and I’m curious to know what, if you do have, is the message you are trying to communicate through your work?
TA: Two things. One I always want to be truthful to self… in all my work I want it to definitely be a reflection of me but truthfully me, whether that means broken me, together me or sad me whatever that form of me is, I want it to be true to that.
Secondly, just for people to feel. When you see me acting I want you to feel, when you see me curating I want you to leave that exhibition feeling something, when you see my photos I want you to feel, literally that would be it.
I don’t want to control what you feel, I just want you to feel whatever that is.
SA: This feeling thing is big sha! Slightly off topic but I’m wondering… *pause* I would love to speak to males and get their perspective on the creative process and I wonder if that word or emotion rather reasonates with them as much as it does with us?
I can definitely relate to your response and I’m really intrigued to understand from a male what grounds and drives them in their vision.
SA: Let’s move on to the colour, where you specifically touched on the process of growth within your creative process. Can you expand more on how you unwind, grow and what the new beginnings are when you think about green as the foundation?
TA: In terms of new beginnings, I say that because I associate green with nature. Even when we go nature is still present and growing, there’s always that feeling of newness. For me personally when I think of the colour forest green those three things you mentioned is what it gives me.
I’m trying to think of how I bridge those three, but my thinking is ‘this is what the colour does for me’...
SA: I guess you don’t need to bridge them.
TA: Nature is where I go for new beginnings 100%. When I’ve had a dark day, month or weeks the first thing I do when I come out of that is go into nature.
SA: I feel you.
TA: That’s what I always do. I had weeks just after my birthday when I was low for a long time and the first thing I did when I left my home was go to nature. That’s why I see it as a place of new beginnings.
For unwinding *pause*.... What is my unwind?
I unwind when I listen to music, when I go to the gallery, when I charity shop. Even in those moments of doing those things I’m looking through the lens of forest green… I can’t explain it but what I mean by that *pause*... my eyes are so open to those things. If I’m listening to music the smallest thing like the colour of the album might be green, little things like that. It’s not conscious. If I’m going to the gallery, the exhibition I want see may have hints of green there… once again it’s not consciously but it tends to happen and because it’s the colour that I like I’m seeing things through the lens of green.
Also, when I charity shop I tend to want to find forest green pieces of clothes! Not intentionally but it’s in my subconscious… but yeah, that’s unwinding.
Growth. I think I’d link that with nature.
SA: Ok… well that’s a nice segue to discuss your relationship with fashion.
TA: Fashion!! You know what I hate that word you know…
SA: I know! Coming from a design background I completely understand what you mean *laughs*
TA: When people say to me ‘Oh my gosh! You’re such a fashionista!’ I could literally puke.
SA: *laughs* the industry has definitely killed that word. It’s dead.
TA: I love the word ‘style’!
SA: I know you do *laughs*
TA: Fashion seems to be a box where it singles people out ‘you have fashion, you don’t’... but with style everybody has style. You might not like someones style but, you know, they’ve got their own style.
It’s so funny because I was never into it growing up. You know some people always had something about them… I had friends who from day-dot they dressed a bit funky, you’ve had your own style from day-dot. I grew into my style.
Growing up I was here for the baggy jeans, baggy top! *laughs*
SA: Was you a tracksuit girl, yeah!?
TA: Not tracksuit, but baggy. I just wore baggy stuff and then I’d wear Jordan’s… I’d be with my trainers that had 10 different colour-ways on them. Honestly, that was my style growing up.
SA: *laughs*... yeah!?
TA: Where it changed, is when I started losing myself but also finding myself… that’s when it actually changed. There was a moment in my life where I didn’t know who I was but I was discovering myself at the same time, it was happening and I think in those moments a lot of things were changing. My interests were changing, the food I was eating was changing, the group of people I was hanging around with was changing and funnily enough my style was changing.
It’s so funny because my style actually reminds me of my Mum, it’s weird. Growing up I used to think ‘yie! Why do you dress like that?’
SA: She said ‘yieee!’
SA: I haven’t heard that word in time! Oh! My! Days!
TA: I’m done! I’m done! I’m done!
SA: That is a major throwback! Oh my days! Woow! Ok carry on...
TA: I’m tryna bring all throwback words back man! But yeah… I was thinking, ‘why do you dress like that?’. I wish I kept all of her clothes, because I would be stun-ting right now! When it comes to style I’m all about comfort. Comfort! Comfort! Comfort!
The best thing I’m into is trousers, whether they’re silk, linen, corduroy… I love a good pair of nice trousers. But yeah I’m all about comfort, looking comfortable and I always feel style is another creative outlet… the way you dress is an expression of who you are. I’m the type of person I wake up in the morning and however I feel that day is what I’m going to wear.
Comfort and clothes that last long, I’m talking 20 years from now I’m still wearing that same trouser, that same jacket… Do you get what I’m saying?
SA: I-feel-you! Oh my days!
TA: That is what I’m after. I don’t actually have a lot of clothes but I just be recycling with different things, that’s the type of vibe I’m on. A lot of my mates would say ‘you dress like a Grandma’ or ‘you’re looking like a Deaconess’.
SA: *laughs* she said Deaconess!!
TA: For me! It works bruv… it actually works.
SA: I hear you… when you talk about wardrobe goals its having minimal but durable, minimal but stylish, minimal but statement
TA: 100% Hun-dred per-cent!
SA: It’s definitely taking after our mothers in that role
TA: 100% Do you know what’s so funny!? I never used to do colours. I always used to be in my blacks, whites , nudes, navy… never bold colours. I don’t know why but recently I've had a thing to just wear bright colours… I don’t know what it is...
...think it’s the influence of my friends, you know?... to be specific, sometimes when I see Demae I’m like ‘this gurl be looking like a colourful…
SA: … a carnival!
TA: … bruv! A colourful being!
SA: …. A bouquet of flowers! *laughs*
TA: What was that game we used to play in school where there was a massive tent and we’d put it over our heads?... Rainbow parachute
SA: ...yeahhh! And we’d run underneath it!
TA: That is what Demae reminds me of. She was wearing these rifts the other day, which I’m actually going to get... and I was like ‘they're bare colourful!’ and she was like ‘you know there’s black ones?’... and I was looking online and I was like ‘you know what?... I’m gonna get a colourful one man, bun this’
SA: Yeah… step out of your comfort zone init!?
TA: Yeahhh! I’m getting into the colours now, I’m like ‘ooo ok!’ - Not for long though, I feel like it’s for a season. I’ll probably go back to my dark and neutral colours after.
SA: Ok so that flows into the role of colour in your style. You just explained the transition you’ve gone through in becoming more expressive and finding influence from friends. Are you intentional about colour as you are about going into nature?
TA: In terms of clothes, 100%... Blue is my Mum’s favourite colour. On special dates that I wanna feel connected to her I wear blue. Also I think it’s a feeling thing, back to the words I used - unwinding I might be in green… more times when I’m doing my creative process I might be in green, I’m on a shoot, curating an exhibition, going for rehearsals for acting you might see me with a hint of green, that’s just my colour.
I just have to see it… whether it’s my purse, footwear, my socks that you can’t see but they're going to be on. Definitely plays a part.
Forest green is a colour that’s with me… I’m not even going to lie, where I put my earrings is in a little forest green pouch. I’ve always got to see it somewhere.
SA: That’s so cute.
TA: On a day to day, it’s definitely the feels. Whatever that colour is… like I said forest green is my colour but… you know, it could be black. I know Nigerian parents hate black but I don’t even have a negative relationship with black so I'll wear it.
It is intentional.
SA: I like that! I feel like it all comes natural to you.
If you was to get to the root of it, where do you think that innate way of using colour comes from?
TA: Mmm… where did that comes from?...
I want to say two places.
1 - Growing up as a kid I think through exploration and actually the other day I was looking through my folder… I have a folder of when I was in nursery, primary & secondary school that my Mum kept. I was looking through it and a lot of the comments about me were all about the fact that I like to explore independently and a lot of my work was associated with colour but also being perfect with colour… I can’t explain it but, if I created a painting, I took pride in my work.
SA: Would you colour inside the lines?
TA: IN-SIDE! When I mean inside… not even one squiggle would come out. That was the type of person I was.
TA: ...but I would take pride in what I was doing. From a young age I’ve also had that exploration mindset… always being drawn to things that entice my eyes. I feel like when you see something the first thing you notice is it’s colour… you’re not thinking about the texture.
2 - My Mum. I remember the houses we used to live in colour was… the carpets red!
SA: *laughs* typical for an African household
TA: *laughs*.... The paint is blue, here is orange… like, what is going on!? Like honestly bro!
SA: Colour blockinggg!
TA: From early I saw from Mumzie… yeah, she definitely had a thing for colour man.
SA: Mmmm.. nice!
Awwnn.. So we’re on our last question… overall what are your thoughts about the word colour?
TA: What are my thoughts?... mmm…
SA: Ok you know what let’s take it here, how do you interpret colour therapy?
TA: Colour Therapy!?.... Mmm…
I feel like *pauses* I don’t know, maybe I can find theory from here… I’m just going to spill these words.
I feel like colour is so important and the reason I realised that it is so important is when I used to work in a school with SEN kids there was always a sensory room. In the sensory room it had a lot to do with colour and they would have different effects, either to calm you down, make you feel happy… which I found really interesting because even adults need it, it’s not only kids. Do you get what I’m saying?...
TA: Someone could say yellow is a colour that makes them happy, but then someone else could say pink does the exact same for them. So it’s whatever you perceive, look how I said green makes me feel but for someone else green could be associated with pain… so I don’t know what my colour therapy would be.
SA: Yeah that makes sense, we’re all different so that is to be expected.
TA: I have to say I do feel regal with the colour forest green, I’m not gona lie. It give me that *pauses*... I can’t even tell you sis…
SA: Opulence, Empress, Queen
TA: Bruv! Al-of-it!
SA: Al-of-it! *laughs*
TA: I feel like a woman of high quality and I don’t mean that in terms of materialism, I mean within myself…
TA: Babe! Even the way my head is carried up high… it’s like ‘gurlll, you’re talking to a woman of high quality!’
SA: That's powerful
TA: I feel like I only came into that now, I couldn’t have said that to you 10 even 5 years ago…
SA: But that’s the beauty of growth, is it not? Like you said *pauses*... we’re ever evolving and when you explained your style from the beginning at the point where you didn’t know yourself you’re colours were bold, then muted but now they’re refined. Refined to a point where you can pick one colour and be like boom! This is me because this is what it evokes within me and how makes me feel and I think that is testament to who YOU are and your ability to identify with a feeling that is so powerful, so regal and naturally beautiful, you know?
Always remember that.
TA: Thanks sis.
SA: Thank you!
TA: Thank you!
SA: Thank you my darling and I love and all that you are honestly!
TA: I love you too baby girl!... I’m glad that our paths crossed
SA: Honestly if I didn’t go to Ravensbourne I don’t think I would have met you.
TA: Why? Is that what brought you to Hillsong?
SA: Yeah, through Nathan & Georgia...
To be continued… for part 2 on this story of how myself and Tosin crossed paths tune in to the YELLOW post on Saturday 24th April @ 12pm.
Thank you for reading this post, I hope it inspired you to think about how you use colour in your day to day and whether it is subconsciously a form of therapy.
I invite you to share any comments you have below.
Until next time.
Love, Sandra x