Interview by Dora Cohnen
Okimi's videos makes one remember old Basquiat documentaries. Enigmatic, confusing, raw and beautiful. VHS recordings of friends, snippets of conversations, or gigs by the upcoming London hip hop group Neverland Clan. She captures them in everyday situations, on buses, on trains or in restaurants, making them protagonists in their surroundings, portraying youth culture. An Interview with the nineteen-year old Londoner...
What are you doing at the moment, job- and education-wise?
I actually dropped out of BRIT school. I was there for a year, doing visual arts and design. I really liked it; it was really good. But I thought I could just do this stuff by myself and the atmosphere kind of changed so I was not really liking going to college anymore. And I have been pretty much my whole life in education so I wanted to go on my journey.
When my friend Ryan [Hawaii from the Neverland Clan] had his first show in Brixton, that's when I decided to record different events and memories. From then on I have just been recording, like I would just be in my bedroom and my friend would come over, we would smoke some weed or just chat or whatever. Like my friend Omelet would come over, making a beat and then I would be sitting on my laptop doing whatever and I would just start filming- literally, I just put my camera in a book case because I don't have a tripod. It has different shelves, so I am just putting the camera in wherever I can and I just film.
So it feels very natural to you?
Yes, very natural. It's sometimes scary having a camera shoved in your face and being like, “Oh, that's cool can I film you for a bit“ and you're like “Ahh. I don't know“. I just do it. I just put the camera beside me under the arm, and I would be talking to them. I don't want to look too intimidating, so it's almost like the camera is hidden and then we'd just be talking.
How did you get into film?
My mum's current boyfriend used to manage two rock bands in the nineties and he used to film the gigs. It's not like I actively took inspiration from it but I think I sub-consciously did because I kind of do the same thing now- mash up videos from different events. He got a camcorder and I was like, ‘Oh, I want to get one, it looks cool and I wanna try that kind of thing’. So I just bought it for like 40 bucks on Ebay, with all equipment, batteries, everything, the whole set, and just started. And editing, again, I did that myself, I just learnt that, the basics.
Why did you like filming with a VHS camera?
I sometimes feel having it a bit shit doesn't make me take the video too seriously. I used to be very bad about other people's opinions so I don't want other people to take my videos too seriously. I would be going over it for like two weeks and then just hate it, literally hate it, throw it out and didn't want to see it anymore. I just felt like if I used a new camera, a HD one just for myself, it would look a bit corny what I was doing. So I kinda wanted it a bit more lo-fi and a bit wonky. The audio is through one ear and it's just a shit quality, it's not something to be taken seriously. These are just literally my memories, how I see it, as I see it, I just cut it up. Sometimes I just shift something over to confuse a little bit, it's just a little bit of fun, I just want it to be as raw as possible in a sense.
Why do you like to film your friends and everyday situations?
When you walk, when you're on a train, when you're listening to music, and you just kind of feel as though you are in a scene and you're kind of looking at it, almost like observing yourself in this situation... I just really appeal to things like that, it's always been like that. When I listen to music I do a lot of visualisation. And then sometimes I am like “Oh, I wish I remembered this moment.“ This moment, I had a conversation with my friends, for example. Documenting helps me remember. I am scared I am gonna lose my mind when I am older and not remember anything, so I am glad that I have these videos now, so I can look back on it to just remember the good stuff.
How do you know when to film a situation?
I don't carry my camera around, because I have broken my camera just by carrying it twice. I have got a stack, it's like a graveyard of camcorders... It's like four of them! I have lost footage from the Boiler room with Neverland, it just broke in my bag, I didn't even touch it. The other time I was recording my friend and it just jammed. With Neverland, I spend so much time with them that it was my perfect opportunity to get my camcorder on and actually record something because those are the times we were creating something or we were just talking about something that we want in the future, our dreams and kinda things like that. I grew a lot with them, a lot. That's a very important part of my life that I definitely had to record. That's for me now to release, this is my work, this is what I do, but when it comes down to it, in the end, this is for them. Everyone that I record, every video that I make of someone... It is for them because it is them. It may be my piece of work, that's what I made, but it's something you can have and you can watch, so you can look back on it and just remember the good times.
And when you're collaborating with someone it's also easier to develop your work.
Yes, definitely. When I dropped out of college, I just chilled with them, most of the time. They were a bit older but they weren't in uni and they were just doing what they wanted to do. I met Ryan through a friend and we just started chilling. I don't just do videos, I also do illustrations, drawings, kind of release paintings. Emotional release. When I become pissed off and I can't draw I just stab the canvas with my paint. So drawing was my main focus, especially when I was in college, so when I came out I kind of continued that. Ryan was showing me his music and we just really connected. It's amazing because he introduced me to Omelet and Daniel and Chris and everyone in Neverland Clan, that's why I started filming, and that's when I became not just being their friend but also working together.
What is the Neverland Clan?
Neverland Clan saved my life. It's a lot of things. It's a state of mind. Physically, it's a group of guys all making what they love and what they want to make. It's just about staying young and free and happy and not just essentially being a rebellious group. It's just trying to live a free life, in a sense, that you can make what you love and what you dream into something that is greater than just a thought. They are really showing that to the world and I am proud of them every single day for everything they have accomplished. They're my brothers.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I could do this for the rest of my life, which I'd love, don't get me wrong. I would do this for the rest of my life. But I could also be doing something completely different, just as long as I am happy and content with my life. I think that's my future: Being in a good position. In a safe, comfortable, happy position.