Playing 15 Questions with Ottawa graphic artist Kéonté Isaiah Mouaga aka Babu Nyx

What does the name Babu Nyx mean?

I always liked the idea of having an alter ego and so I brainstormed one day and came up with it. Babu is an alternative name for Thoth; the Egyptian God of arcane wisdom, science and magic. It’s his name when he assumes a Baboon form rather than the familiar Ibis form we usually recognize. Thoth as a deity and philosopher (i.e Hermes Trismegistus) has always been a huge source of inspiration for me since he is so common in the mystical traditions I’ve always been keenly interested in. He represents a spiritual guide that shows one the way to hidden wisdom and sheds light on the secrets of both mind and nature. Nyx, on the other hand, is the Greek Goddess of night and night conceals or hides the ‘truth’ behind its cloak. This apparent duality for me was symbolic of various occult concepts of spiritual androgyny. For one to be all encompassing they must unify all opposites within themselves. So I chose two deities with opposing natures and of opposite sexes, coming together in one name.

How long have you been drawing for?

I’ve been into art since a young age but it wasn’t until high school that I took it seriously. I’d say it’s been around 4 or 5 years.

What genre would you classify your art as?

I don’t normally like to classify my art under one particular genre but I would say the majority of it is graphic art. I do try to incorporate various elements of street art, abstract, representational and macabre art as well. I also take huge influence from the Ero Guru Nonsensu tradition in Japan with all its excessive gore often contrasted with bright resilient colours and miscellany.

What would you say are some of the main inspirations behind your work?

To name a few in no particular order:
– Death Grips and Slayers’ music
– Drugs
– Dreams
– Nihilism and Spirituality
– The inhumanity prevalent in past and current world events
– Jungian Psychology
– Occultism
– Thelema
Ero Guru Nonsensu (the ‘Erotic Gory Nonsense’ art movement in Japan)
– Inherent flaws of human nature
– Religious hypocrisy
– Sexuality and Depravity
– Self Destruction and Self Realization

The themes of death, sex and religion are ever-present in your work, what is their significance?

I incorporate a copious amount of violent, sexual and religious imagery to reflect the various ideals and instincts that are possessed, and at times neglected by all of us. We sometimes feel aggression towards ourselves and our fellow humans, often this is contrasted with our sexual instincts when we desire to share and receive affection, and at times we find ourselves seeking something beyond or within ourselves in religion and spirituality. The sex and death instincts and the God Complex are prevalent themes in most of my work, and the horrific pandemonium that ensues when all of these come together. When our desire to be God or to do his supposed ‘work’ results in our taking the life of another. Or when our overabundant sexual gratification leads to the deterioration of our bodies with venereal disease; sex becomes both our punishing and rewarding ‘God.’ The extremities of self-deification, lust and religious violence have, and likely will always be evident in my work.

Why do you think Dark Art appeals to people?

I think Dart Art appeals to some people for obvious reasons. All of us have a dark side whether we choose to admit it or not. For the most part, we’re forced to conceal it under the dictates and policies of external forces and our own internalized Superego. This repression is seemingly done for the better but sooner or later what’s repressed tends to resurface or often is projected onto other groups of people and renounced as our own. I believe allowing oneself to create and consume dark art serves almost as a cathartic release of these aggressive and instinctual emotions that exist in the subterranean of our psyches. People know that the world is fucked and I feel that dark art can either bring to mind that unavoidable truth that some have tried to closet, while shedding light on some of the reasons why the world has come to be in such a state of degeneration and viciousness.

For those that find your art disturbing or grotesque, what do you say?

What they see in me is what they fail to see in themselves. The attribution of wickedness on to other people is but a projection of a common trait that’s shared by all humanity, not by a select few.

The new @it6leeds venture, how is it connected?

I made @it6leeds so that my work could be seen without the intermixing of my personal life, almost as a regression into my previous anonymity.

How do you think your work has evolved over the years?

I think that a lot of the archetypal themes have stayed constant more or less, but just appear in different guises. I do try to variate with different styles though, whether simplifying them or attempting more complex and detailed work. I try to be as versatile as possible and make each piece special in its own way all the while planting references and reoccurring symbols and themes amongst them.

Talk a little bit about these ‘stick’ people you’ve been drawing…

Recently, with school and work I haven’t had much time to draw any complex work and so I’ve sufficed with my little doodle men. I drew a few in various states of existence and then thought to develop it further into a more strung out narrative. I consider them like little homunculi which express various ideas I’ve been meaning to draw out for some time in a much more simplified and accessible form. I’ve actually been meaning to start a comic of sorts that would be titled “Killing in the Name of God,” which would reminisce on various times in society where people have done just that; killing in the name of divine retribution. Whether it be the crusades, the reign of terror or the sacrifices to pagan gods in the ancient past. I drew some of them with or without pants intending to show the contrast between liberal and conservative views in society. Some of them are also equipped with crosses, Papal tiaras, and various religious iconography. The assaults committed amongst them are representational of the senseless onslaught in the world of which neither party is entirely politically correct, yet each party has its personal justifications for their inhumanity. I chose to draw them in black and white to stress the moral ambivalence of their actions. And gave them all a similar anatomy to emphasize our shared commonalities being overlooked by such auxiliary things as religious affiliation or the choice to wear pants or not. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback regarding these little executioners so I’m considering sticking with them at least for the time being.

Who are some of your favourite artists? Any local ones?

I’m a huge fan of the works of Toshio Saeki, James Jean, Tina Lugo, Joao Ruas, Takato Yamamoto, Goya, Salvador Dali, Marjorie Cameron and Austin Osman Spare. I’d say out of all of these Saeki and Spare have been the most impressionable. My older sister, Opala, is probably my favourite local artist. She has a very unique style of painting that I find so inspiring.

In your opinion, what is the Ottawa art scene like? What is unique about it?

I think Ottawa’s art scene is in a very important state of fruition at the moment. For some time, I believe there was ubiquitous doubt in what we could do and few people really took it seriously but with the collective efforts of some people I know, and others who I’ve seen put in the work, Ottawa’s art scene has blossomed and grown into something great that doesn’t have an end in near sight. I think Ottawa’s art scene is special because it really cherishes authenticity and versatility. You won’t make it unless you have something special and never seen before to bring to the table. I would like to see more collaborative efforts to create more experimental and eclectic work.

What is the goal for your art in the next two years?

I plan to keep trying new things, experimenting with more mediums and eventually collaborate with other artists. I hope to release a comic book in the near future as well as host a personal exhibition. I’ve also been meaning to commercialize my work and eventually design clothing and capitalize on other merchandise. It’s not so much the money that motivates me, but rather having my message out there being absorbed by people’s minds.

Explain the quote “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable (Banksy),” in your own words.

I take this as basically saying that art should be the catharsis of people who don’t normally have a way to express or relate to the unacceptable and chaotic emotions they may feel. And it should serve as an alarm for those privileged few who arouse these emotions in us with their blatant hypocrisies and divisive elitism. Art is revolutionary in that it should bring about an internal change in its witness and therefore a broader change in society.

What words do you live by?

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law…Love is the law, love under will.” – Aleister Crowley

Some close seconds:

“The more Chaotic I am, the more complete I am.”- Austin Osman Spare

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl G. Jung

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” – Carl G. Jung