Renowned Nova Scotian teen becomes Wellness Within's first junior artist in residence

Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
·2 min read

Damini Awoyiga has been creative for as long as she remembers.

“I would draw, I would paint and I would also make cards for my parents and family friends whenever there was a birthday going on,” the Grade 8 Madeline Symonds Middle School student recalls from her younger years.

“Also, when I was eight or nine, I made mini food out of clay and they were pretty realistic.”

Today, at just 13 years old, Awoyiga is a well-renowned activist, artist and poet.

She’s made headlines with her mask-masking business, Damini Creatives, which sources materials from Nigeria and Ghana, and for starting the Afro-Indigenous Youth Book Club — the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada — to encourage youth to read Black and Indigenous stories.

Now, Awoyiga is preparing for her next artistic endeavour: as the first junior artist in residence with Wellness Within: An Organization for Health and Justice.

“Damini obviously demonstrates extraordinary talent in a lot of different areas — painting, poetry and textiles. Not only is she talented, but she has this vision of art as a source of empowerment for youth and for girls in particular,” said Martha Paynter, founder of Wellness Within.

“So that is just right on with our mission and it was a perfect fit.”

Wellness Within is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that focuses on reproductive justice, prison abolition and health equity.

According to Paynter, the organization came to know about Awoyiga and her work through her mentorship with El Jones, who is a community-based activist, poet, writer and member of Wellness Within, and decided to bring on a junior artist in residence for the first time this year, after years of hosting adult artists.

Paynter said Awoyiga will work creatively during Wellness Within’s Black doula training event in Halifax from Nov. 27 to 29. Awoyiga’s “abstract” residence artwork will then be used in Wellness Within’s “promotional work and publications throughout the year,” she added.

'I'm very excited'

Awoyiga said she “welcomes the opportunity” to take on the inaugural junior artist residency.

“I’m very excited and I’m very happy,” she added.

Through her art, activism and poetry, Awoyiga, who is Nigerian-Canadian, said she wants people “to understand other people, understand women’s rights and be open to learning new things.”

“I also want to be able to make change in people that maybe thought things that maybe weren’t right or weren’t true about people — not necessarily to change people’s views, but to kind of explain,” she added.

Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald