Getting to know House Composite’s Chidera Uzoka
By Mikaela Delos Santos, Publishing Editor
I was without caffeine, deprived of sleep, and spiritually ‘off’ that morning. I had decided to meet up for an interview with local digital artist House Composite. I set my recorder in front of me, getting myself ready to chat with her. As I waited in a caffeine-withdrawal daze, I was met with an aura of calm as she approached our booth.
Also known as Chidera Uzoka, House Composite is an incoming second year Info Design student at Mount Royal University (MRU), artist, and young entrepreneur. I initially first met Uzoka at an online speed-friending event held during the lockdown where she first told me about her art, mostly focusing on portraits that she digitally paints on her tablet.
As we sat down over coffee, Uzoka told me the story of how House Composite came to be. Despite the easy energy she emitted, I felt her passion for her work, her faith, and her culture.
“It started the summer before I came into University. It was [during] COVID that I first started it. I played basketball in high school and I actually shattered my knee at the time and so I couldn’t move,” she started.
Uzoka was bedridden while she recovered from her knee injuries. At the time, her father gave her a Surface Pro tablet, initially to be used for her upcoming semester at Mount Royal. Having nowhere to go due to her injury, her tablet became a tool for her creativity to ignite.
I asked Uzoka where the name of her business House Composite came from. With a shy giggle she told me it was the creation of a word generator, although she embraced the brand name and gave it meaning.
“Your house is where you can be most comfortable, and composite is a collection of things compiled together. And so when I think of House Composite, when I think of art, it’s that place where that safe place where things come together for you to be creative and for you to ultimately have your home.”
And through her art, I can tell she is at her safe place that rightly manifested in her portraits. I then realized where the calm energy came from.
As I came to know Uzoka through our conversations, her paintings revolved around three things. Her culture, faith, and family.
“I love renaissance art and like looking at art of the past and things like that, but you don’t really see people that look like me.”
“I know my blackness is something that’s obviously a part of me. It doesn’t define me, but it’s a part of me and it’s an important part of me. It’s one of those things where I can express who I am as a person through my art. And that’s kind of what it kind of moved towards where I see all these people that I enjoy, like their music or their art or one of my favorite sports like basketball,” Uzoka adds.
Uzoka was born in Nigeria but grew up in Calgary. Blue, a prominent colour in her paintings, defined her connection to her culture.
“[Blue has] so much depth to it. You look at the ocean, what’s in the ocean? You don’t know except if you explore the sky, like there’s so much out there. We don’t know unless you explore it. And when it comes to black culture, it has so much depth and so many moving parts to it that [when] you look at it from the surface, it looks pretty, it looks like it’s rich and beautiful, but there’s so much in it.”
Uzoka’s faith is her biggest inspiration for her portraits
“When I paint people, it’s like I’m painting that likeness of God and we’re called to be creators in that sense. And so when I paint people, I’m not only painting what God created. [That’s already] the highest form of what God created is like humanity, and when I paint that it reflects God. But it also reflects the nature of being creative and being who God called me to be in that sense.”
Throughout our chat, I could feel the love and admiration for the man in her life. It was Uzoka’s father who kept motivating her to grow House Composite.
“I remember my dad, [when I] was learning digital art. He [said], ‘You should sell this’. And I’m like, yeah, maybe I should. And so I went and he actually bought me my website. He bought me the domain for the year and he’s like, ‘I’ll give you this like starting point and then you can go for them from there.’”
Our conversation continued naturally, forgetting the fact that we had my recorder in between us, and we came to a beautiful realization that everything was destined for Uzoka and House Composite. The stars have aligned, from when she first started painting due to her injury, to now selling her art in markets, her website, and getting offered big projects. Throughout the process, I noticed that there was an evolution to the art she makes now.
“There’s so much for me to learn. And I think that’s kind of what has evolved my art in that sense, I think when you humble yourself and you’re like, I’m not that great, that’s when you can become great. You know what I mean? And so House Composite has given me that opportunity to see like, hey, there’s so much for you to learn in that.”