In Nigeria, electricity is an unpredictable commodity. Without the courtesy of a prior warning, sections of the West African country can go from an electrifying display of bustle to scattered darkness for an erratic span of time.
From growing up in predominantly white schools in Colorado to being the only Black male student in his graphic design program at the University of South Carolina, Isaac Udogwu, owner, and founder of [IN] Color Magazine knows a thing or two about being the light in a dark place.To be thrust into the position of the first or only Black anything inevitably comes with its set of challenges: from being the token voice of “all Black people,” to crafting the art of code switching, it all can seem like an emotionally taxing onus. Still, the 23-year-old is determined to remain rooted in his identity, "I make sure to let them know that I am Black and I have a different experience from them. This is me; this is how it’s going to be.”
For Isaac, life imitated art in the purest form when it came to the creation of [IN] Color Magazine, “Just looking at all the design and art magazine I was reading, I would rarely see people of color in it.” What started as a class project has now become the catalyst for change to improve the representation disparity he’d witnessed all his life.
You’ve been able to establish a pretty solid support group of creatives to help you with your different initiative. How were you able to ensemble your tribe?
I think it all started with these events in Columbia called, Soul N’ Substance that a lot of my creative friends would go to and showcase their work. I was always an artist but at the time, I never showcased my work; it took me a couple of years to start doing that. When I would go to these events, I would meet other artists and we would start vibing and collectively started hanging out at different functions. It started to build when we would go to each other’s events, buy each other’s work, and that’s how I started to get this tribe thing going with all of the support I have now.
How did you come up with the concept for your magazine, [In] Color?
The magazine started as a class project in my [graphic design] program. We were asked to create a magazine of our own and why it was important to have it. As I began writing the draft for it in Dec. 2016, my thesis was to create a magazine about creatives in the world with a focus on people of color. Initially, I was going to call the magazine “Creative Color” but I felt like that was too cliché of a title and anything with creative in the title usually isn’t creative at all.
I was thinking about colored TV, because they didn’t become popular until the 1960s and that was the same time the civil rights era was really at its pinnacle. So I was like, how about I go with the name, “In Color.” That was the time we started seeing things of color and when we usually refer to the start of seeing evolution and revolution with the Black Panthers, SNIC, Kung-Fu and Blaxploitation films, and Asians who supported Black Power. Everything of color was pumping at that time.What void did you see that needed to be filled in this space of POC (people of color) magazines?
I’m currently in the graphic design program at USC and I’m the only Black student in the program at the moment. Just looking at all the design and art magazine I was reading, I would rarely see people of color in it. I would see a few big names but it wouldn’t be a lot. So I was like, Okay, there’s a scarcity in this, we need more people of color in magazines in the creative field. We need to show this so we don’t have to see just means to an end for success.
We need to know that there are other ways to express ourselves and that’s what I wanted to do with the magazine while also teaching people of color who don’t get access to what goes on in the art world and how to maneuver into it, because that’s another opportunity that we’re not really able to have. I’m also doing internships where I curate art shows and seeing who comes to these shows and where these museums are and who these museums are for, there’s a lack of people of color who attend these spaces.
We’re there any magazines that you enjoyed reading in your younger years that have inspired you now?
My older brother used to have a subscription to Rolling Stone and whenever I would pick it up, the dopest thing would be seeing pieces on musicians from the past with who’s popping right now. They’d [feature] the hottest album out at the time and hire an illustrator to draw pictures for it. I always loved that because there would always be a different image each time. They would also talk about politics and what’s going on in the world.
I liked reading thought Ebony and Jet too just because of the images on those covers; they were always captivating and styled so well to me. I always wanted to recreate something like that.
A part of me was like, 'Screw this, I’m leaving SC… I’m going to go somewhere else to make a name for myself.' Then another part of me was like, this is your home right now… I want to see this place strive.
Let’s talk about Isaac the martial artist. You practice Shuai Jiao which is Chinese wrestling?
Yep, so I practice, Shuai Jiao which translates to “back throw” and consist of throwing and locks, kicks, and punches. I also do Muay Thai which is a martial art from Thailand along with others mix martial arts.
How did you get into this?
It started with Power Rangers when I was younger; me and my two brothers’ would love to watch it almost every day. It was an addiction, to be honest. When I moved to SC, my older brother went off to college in Florida and started training in martial arts. When I was about 16 years old, he came home to visit and he was like, “I have a couple of things to teach you. I’m teaching you this so you can protect yourself.” I thought it was really cool and wanted to continue doing it.
When I was about 17, I was introduced to my brother’s high school friend who was a practitioner in Shuai Jiao and started putting me on game with that.
So I was like, when I get to college I’m going to return to this and start taking it more seriously. When I got to USC in 2014, I started to compete in martial arts. I started in kickboxing and Muay Thai and after a year of that, I switched to Shuai Jiao and started competing in that.How has competing and practicing as a martial artist contributed to your work as a creative artist?
To me, it’s all art and I try my best not to separate them. When I do, it becomes a struggle of balance: what’s more important, what should I be working on more. I use my martial art for my art and my art for my martial art to help me expand my mind and see how different things can be approached. I relate one martial art to another because there are so many similarities between them. Studying my craft, that’s how I keep them all together. It all ties together.
What is your take on the growing creative movement happening in South Carolina and how do you plan on pushing it forward?
I’ve been in SC for 16 years and growing up, I always felt like there was nothing to do here. Then, I was like, I actually have to make something for myself to do. That’s when I started meeting all these different people who felt the same way I did, we started to see different things come from it; especially when Kayla Richardson started Soul N’ Substance in Columbia. From there, I felt like that was the big push for all these other movements to start.A part of me was like, “Screw this, I’m leaving SC. I’m not going to stay down here; I’m going to go somewhere else to make a name for myself.” Then another part of me was like, this is my home right now, this is where all your best friends are, I want to see this place strive.
If I do leave, I can always come back and get the same love I had when I was here and I’ll be able to coordinate with more people to point their eye back to SC. And say hey, there are some really good things happening in SC now, that’s the place to go.
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Peace, peace, peace,