Where minimalism fuels creativity

Whose House? Kwae’s house

Thandi Vera

Kwae Kobain, a local hip-hop artist, lives in a minimalist apartment, a haven of simplicity and tranquility that fuels his creative process. The apartment’s white walls and uncluttered design provide an ideal backdrop for his artistic thoughts to flow.

“I need a blank canvas to create. If there’s too much around me, I can’t think,” Kobain says. “It’s so funny, because people think as a creative that you want so much colour in your personal space, but I get overstimulated a lot, so I don’t like it too much.”

Despite the simple décor, this serene setting is far from sterile. Kobain’s home serves as a sanctuary for his life experiences. Meaningful artifacts, like a Buddhist poster gifted by his sister, help connect him to his spirituality.

Among these artifacts is the lingam, an abstract representation of the Hindu god Shiva. “Shiva is an interesting character that has informed my art, life and style. I found out about Shiva by reading and researching my own culture,” he says.

Through his research, Kobain found many similarities between West African and Southeast Asian cultures and religions. “The lingam just kind of reminds me about where I’m from,” specifically his Nigerian roots and upbringing.

In one corner of his living space, a cherished gift from a close friend takes pride of place in the form of a painting. Kobain says that souvenirs, like the teddy bear from Ottawa, act as tangible milestones, reminding him of his ever-evolving journey.

“All these items, whether found, purchased or received as gifts, represent different elements or chapters of my life. They turn my apartment into a gallery of cherished memories,” he says.

Kobain’s musical journey is as diverse as his home décor. While hip hop remains at the core of his music, he thrives on experimentation.

“Hip hop is broad and kind of spreads into R&B, alternative rock, jazz and Afrobeats, so I never limit myself with my music. I try to play around with different sounds,” he says.

Music isn’t limited to Kobain’s studio. It permeates his daily life and home.

“A big part of music for me is movement,” he says. “I’m usually writing a song throughout the whole day when I’m at work or just walking around my apartment. That’s why having a clear space is important to me.”

For Kobain, minimalism isn’t just a lifestyle. It’s a canvas upon which the vivid colours of his creativity flourish, allowing his artistry to take centre stage.

A souvenir - “It’s from my days in Ottawa. I saw it and thought ‘you’re coming with me to remind me of my time there.’”

Lingam - “It helps me to remember that life is more than just where you find yourself.”

Shoe collection - “I always liked basic shoes like Vans, Skechers and New Balances before they were cool.”

Current obsession (left) - “I love candles. I’m obsessed with f ire. I also think I’m like a candle, you know, just a soft, still flame of ire.”

Favourite artist (right) - “I love Roc Marciano, so my friend gave me a rock with his name on it. It’s an inside joke. Roc is my rock.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 04 of The Uniter (September 28, 2023)

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