As we approach the end of the second week of Soccerlude 2024, we welcome the second month of the year. February, known for its frigid temperatures in Ottawa, is also a time to celebrate Black history and heritage. This year the theme surrounds ‘The Arts’ and what better time than this, to introduce you to Andy Akangah.
Andy, known as THE AKARTS, is a local illustrator and creative and the massive talent behind the wonderful front covers of the 2023 Atlético Ottawa Match Day Programs. Born in Benin, Ghana, Andy moved to the Canadian capital at the age of 17. His passion for artistic creation was always prevalent, and his style was developed from watching “a lot of Dragon Ball Z and Anime” as he often skipped running around at recess to lean into his passion and drew inspiration from hip-hop.
“Years later, I’m still drawing. It’s like I’m trying to get images out of my head,” explained Andy. “I like to create something that has that child-like sense of wonder and I urge everyone to keep nurturing that part inside us. I think that when I do my work it’s very influenced by music. If it was doing a piece on a different artist – such as Drake or Kendrick Lemar – I listen to their music while I’m creating it and I carry their art with me. The way I do my brushstrokes, and the colours I pick, are all based on what I’m listening to at the time. I want my work to be felt as much as seen, I want it to come alive.”
Inspired by comic books and action scenes, working with the professional soccer club in his city was a logical fit for Andy. Being able to “capture the destiny of each game was surreal” for him as he worked closely with Jon Sinden (CMO, Atlético Ottawa) to determine narratives relevant to each match-up such as “players who had played on the opposing team and how that can create some tension in collaboration with the artwork”. Aside from the on-field action, the causes that the club supported in 2023 were a great source of inspiration for the artist.
“The first project was in support of the CHEO Foundation,” said Andy. “I was a bit nervous as, not only was it the first one and I wanted to make sure that it rang true to Atlético as well as my work, I wanted to make sure it supported the great cause in the right way. The first one really set the tone for me. I often went back to it when looking for inspiration for my work as the season progressed.”
‘The Arts’ was chosen as as the theme for Black History Month in 2024 and according to Andy it is “central to our communities in so many ways”.
“It’s important to me to showcase black folks in my work and show is in states of not only power but vulnerability as well,” he explained. “Showcasing black strength through different layers. My work is focused on hip-hop and those narratives of overcoming the odds. That’s something that is very true to the African and Black experience and shows that we are talented in so many different facets.
“It’s important that a month like black history month encourages people to go out and find black artists, and black creators and support them all year long. I think it’s vital that you are open-minded and discover beyond your community. Participate beyond your community. See life through other people,e’s lenses. That’s all artists are doing, through film, dance, and art we are inviting other communities into our worlds.
“For me, this is a month of celebration but it should be a year-long mentality. Let’s support black creatives all year.”
To help Andy make a tangible impact Atlético Ottawa is auctioning off a unique print, representing all of the different match day programs that we collaborated on throughout last season with the money raised going to Andy’s organization of choice: Equal Chance, a non profit that works on a variety of issues which include but are not limited to food security, employment, mental health, homelessness, human rights, justice, health, childcare, financial literacy and International affairs. CLICK HERE to bid on the auction.
Andy’s work, including his first solo comic book which celebrates 40 years of hip-hop in the Ottawa and Gatineau region, can be found for sale at the Ottawa Gallery gift shop and he is currently working on his second exhibit set to take place this summer, with more details to come soon on his social media channels: @theakarts.
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