Welcome to ‘Women We Love’ – our weekly column where we celebrate women doing amazing things in their areas of influence. From the tech & the fashion world to social activism & politics, these women, we think, are definitely crush-worthy.
Today, we shine a light on multidisciplinary artiste – Ms Eva Johnson!
…is also called the Lioness (of love and light) or The Ink & The Voice. A multidisciplinary artist – Eva describes herself as a captivating spoken word poet, singer, actress, rapper, dancer and many other things. She wields words that tell real human stories in an entertaining way. And Eva believes strongly in the education of the common mind and strives to propagate this in her art.
Professionally trained as a lawyer, Eva has a 1st class degree from the University of Liverpool and a masters of law degree from the University of Cambridge, where her poetry has been commended for addressing social issues. She is passionate about social reform, human rights, education, music, technology and the performing arts.
Want to listen to her work? Check out her curated art spectrum from her debut album – ‘From A Different Cloth‘.
We had a chat with Eva on how she started, her work and what’s next.
How did your career as a performer start?
I probably started performing in the womb. I’ve performed as long as I can remember- I was just one of those children. Up until I finished university, acting and dancing were my mainstays. So I was the president of the dance society in university and competed in national dance competitions around the UK. I acted in stage plays when I would come home for the holidays. I also started to explore spoken word poetry more seriously in my final years at University.
When I moved back to Nigeria in 2014 I started really getting into the spoken word poetry scene. At a point, I was performing 3-4 times a week. That was when I decided I had a large enough body of work (rap, spoken word and music) to record an album. I recorded ‘From A Different Cloth’, put it out on music streaming platforms, got great feedback and just kept going.
We’ve heard a couple of your songs including ‘Infamous Lady’ (a favourite) – what inspires them?
Generally, everything inspires my art. Every day human experiences, things that apply to all humans as well as things that are specific to being African or black or female or young or whatever category I decide to talk about. My relationship with God also is the main source of all I do.
Infamous Lady specifically is a funny one. I was listening to Fela’s ‘Lady’ one day, and while I appreciate Fela’s Legacy as an activist/artist, our perspectives on life don’t always align. Infamous Lady is me paying tribute to Fela’s place in the pioneering of Afrobeats while also refuting some of his lyrics by saying ‘Yes, I am the Infamous Lady that Fela spoke about […and so what?]’ *laughs*
Who would you say are your greatest inspirations when it comes to your art?
Every day people (including my amazing family) inspire me, but I’ll say the artists I admire include late Maya Angelou, Jackie Hill Perry, Lauryn Hill, André 3000, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Black Thought, Maimouna Yussef…the list goes on.
Out of all the pieces you’ve written and performed, do you have a favourite? Which one?
Hmnnn, my favourite changes all the time- because there are different pieces for different moods and occasions. Right now, I’m tied between Stay, Average Girl and Unrequited Love.
Take a look at Ms Eva Johnson’s “How You Feel?” Video
You’ve described your piece – ‘Average Girl’ as one of the most important pieces you’ve ever written. Why?
Yes, it tackles the societal issues- domestic and sexual abuse, which are so prevalent but don’t get enough attention. I will keep performing Average Girl and pieces like that until there is no longer a need to do so and people are treated with at least basic human dignity and hopefully love.
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would they be?
I already mentioned them really: late Maya Angelou, Jackie Hill Perry, Lauryn Hill, André 3000, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Maimouna Yussef, Masego, FKJ the list goes on. Oh, for Nigerian artists: Angeloh (who I already collaborated with), Chillz, Dami Oniru, Falz, Cave Men, Oba Reengy …
What would you say are the greatest words of advice you have ever heard?
I’ve had a lot of good advice- thanks to my very wise parents, mentors and friends.
Two stand out:
1: “It’s not that deep. Problem no dey finish” – Unknown
2. Okay, but seriously, the 2nd one is a quote by George Bernard Shaw:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
That quote really resonates with me. I always say: “I want to die empty”.
What do want people who encounter your music to leave with?
I want them to be enlightened and entertained. I want to ask themselves more questions about what they know life to be and be willing to change the status quo. I want to feel listened to, loved and heard.
What’s next for you?
More Art. More Love. More Performances.
I’m working on another body of work right now, which hopefully should be out before the end of the year. I’m also exploring my multidisciplinary artistry more- so you may see me doing some more acting and dancing.
Keep following @MsEvaJohnson on all social media to keep abreast with new and exciting development in my journey.