How Has Art Helped You Find Your Center? with Adejoke Aderonke Tugbiyele

This month, we're excited to offer a new workshop led by pioneering global artist, advocate, and educator, Adejoke Aderonke Tugbiyele. Tugbiyele is author of the children’s book Find Your Center, a coloring book of sacred geometric drawings based on Yoruba principles. She received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Hillier College of Architecture and Design at NJIT in 2002 and a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2013. We're lucky to host her first workshop since moving to Boston this year, which will bring the principles and creative practices from her children's book to life. Register now to save your spot for Finding Your Center, and read on to learn more about the incredible creative behind the artist behind this innovative offering.

Our Youth Engagement staff, Chanelle John and Ian Haines, sat down with Adejoke to learn more about her craft and finding one's center.  

How did you come to making art? 

Over time, I learned to trust my instincts. By doing so, one taps into an infinite wisdom that dwells in the subconscious - moving you closer to a spiritual or existential place. Trusting ones instincts takes practice, because in your head might be years of replaying false, unhealthy words that someone said to you a long time ago, which you believed at the time. Trusting your instincts means being completely honest - of course with others, but with yourself first and foremost. It means going through the difficult practice of shedding and unlearning certain thoughts and behaving completely naturally, regardless of what others may think. This is the beauty of being an artist and how I came into making art. 

Find your center—how'd you come to that title? 

From the moment we are born, we are raised within different 'centers' - the family center, the school center, the religious center, the cultural center - and so on. 'Find Your Center' emerged as the ideal book title for the reader who has come to recognize that within his, her or their mind, body or spirit, they are experiencing some sort of conflict with those earlier centering structures. The book thus seeks to help with healing and finding balance or peace within ones inner-self. 

How has art making helped you find your center? 

Once more, trusting my instincts was key. I found greater freedom of expression in art making. However now I have moved somewhat beyond the physicality of making art and moreso to develop my way of 'seeing'. Art making in Yoruba culture is about the development of insight (oju-inu / inner-eye) so that purpose and destiny are clearly revealed. The physical practice is merely a guide towards this greater, intangible end. Once I learned this, I believe I found my center. 

Why are you excited to partner with the Eliot School? 

The genius of the child is often overlooked or misunderstood. Seeds of what we all grow to become are there - ripe and ready - from our most tender, early years. Rather than finding ways to obstruct or hinder that growth, it should be properly nurtured or cultivated. Art is a beautiful, safe, honest and powerful way to do so. Partnering with The Eliot School of Fine and Applied Art, I will gently guide and encourage the self-expression and divine creativity of youth. It's mutually rewarding - leading youth helps me keep my own inner-child alive as well. 

In this workshop participants will explore sacred geometry. Can you explain what sacred geometry is? 

I like to start with examples in nature - the opening of a flower, stems on a branch, roots of a tree, symmetry of the human body, a spider web. What makes these geometric forms sacred is 

the presence of a divine flow that is ever-present - there from the beginning of time and will be there at the end of time. I believe it is Mother Nature's way of teaches us her laws of inter- dependence. If we stop to look closely enough, the sacred geometric shapes you'll find in nature can shape your understanding about the unknown, beauty in mystery and how to deal with duality in life. I recently found a wonderful quote carved into a rock "an hour in the garden puts life's problems in perspective." 

How do traditions from your Yoruba heritage influence your creative practice? 

Indigenous Yoruba traditions are rich with meaning about all of the above. They are expressed in multiple ways - verbal, written, sung, danced and visual. I am inspired by concepts around 'duality' within Yoruba thought, which are quite similar to those found in Eastern philosophy. I weave these ideas into my practice materially and formally and currently working on developing a studio space that evokes a sense of ritual, transformation and transcendence. 

What brings you to Boston, what are your hopes for this time? 

Boston is my new permanent home. Since I arrived, my move here has strangely felt long overdue. What brings me here? There are many reasons which all come from a deep sense of who I have become and will remain, unapologetically. But also from understanding my roots. I am a daughter of Nigerian immigrants who arrived in New York in the 1970s, however the first person in my family to arrive in the United States - Prof. Chief E.A. Tugbiyele - came to Massachusetts from Lagos, Nigeria by way of a boat in the 1950s and while here made remarkable contributions in the sphere of Education towards a free and independent Nigeria, through graduate study at Harvard University. Indeed, his inspiration and championship of education for all people regardless of identity is partly why I am excited to partner with the Eliot School. One of his many quotes - 'When a man is tired of learning, he is tired of life.' To conclude, my hopes in Boston/Cambridge are to start fresh by grounding myself, to start a family of my own with a loving wife, to acknowledge and best make use of great things I receive and to develop ways to give back to community by way of a new foundation. 


Don't miss your opportunity to find your center with Adejoke! Register your teen for class here