These are Nigerians who are not shy about showcasing their black heritage. They have made the colors of the country fly high through their arts which show their connectedness to the source. Nigerian culture remains pronounced in their works as they dominate the art industry through ingenuity, culture-inspired works and determination. Visual artists like Njideka Akunyili-Crosby were in the limelight when the late NAFDAC DG’s daughter, Professor Dora Akunyili, was announced as a recipient of the American Artists (USA) Fellowship and also when she sold her works at a “good price”. Laolu Senbanjo and Yinka Shonibare are two visual artists who have benefited immensely from their knowledge of African culture.
Laolu NYC leads the way with Afromysterics
Laolu Senbanjo is a lawyer who practiced for three years in Nigeria where he obtained his law degree before leaving for the United States (US). He is popularly known as Laolu NYC and is based in Brooklyn, New York. With Laolu everything is a canvas. His versatility is dominant in his works, which has earned him a place with several high-ranking personalities. Laolu has worked with Taraji P. Henson, Lupita Nyongo, Alicia Keys, Danielle Brooks, and featured her Sacred Art of the Ori body ritual on Beyoncé’s 2016 Grammy Award-winning “Lemonade.” works have earned him a place on the covers of the New York Times and he has given interviews to several media, including BBC, CNN and vogue. He said that since he invented Afromysterics in 2007, everything has become his canvas, including human bodies, clothes, shoes, murals, chairs and tables, because he believes that art does not should not be limited to the wall or the museum. While talking about his style in an interview, he said that there is more to body paint than the the energies had to be the same to get a good result. He said body painting which he called the sacred art of the Ori was not made for pleasure as he considered the body as ancestral skin, adding that his paintings were involved with the body, especially energy. client. Not only is he known for his particular art inspired by Africa, but he is also known to speak about African art as he did when Damien Hirst made a sculpture replica of an African bronze without giving credit to the original part.
He said, “You didn’t give an interpretation; you have created a flat carbon copy. I refuse to sit down and be silent about what you are doing in Venice.
He recalled his journey in the industry when he was invited by Confront Art to create artwork for auction at Sotheby’s via a message he posted on his verified Instagram page: “Being an immigrant in the United States from Nigeria, I was acutely aware of the filters through which I am received, the darkest of all being my skin. So to be able to work as a black artist, in New York, put my art up for auction and at Sotheby’s is still a dream that I haven’t realized yet. What’s even more beautiful is that the proceeds from this lot go to the Breonna Taylor Foundation: that The Sacred Art of the Ori would have the chance to create an altar to our Breonna – I’m so lucky.
He also used the event to engage in activism; defend the course of the black artist. Laolu is also a singer, songwriter, musician and activist with collaborations with Kenneth Cole, Nike, Equinox Fitness, Starbucks, Belvedere, Bvlgari, TED, among others.
His deal with Nike gave him a new perspective by showing his work on sneakers. He said he had wanted to bring his works of art into fashion, which was facilitated by his relocation to New York. His selection as one of the artists for Nike’s Masters of Air added the desired glamor to his works, adding that the deal transformed his artistic career.
The batik of Shonibare distinguishes it, in front
Yinka Shonibare is another Nigerian who excels as a visual artist in the UK. He was born in 1962 in London and studied Fine Art at Byam School of Art, London (now Central Saint Martin’s College) in 1989 and received his MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London in 1991. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2004. He carved out a niche for himself using Ankara fabrics to represent African colors while conveying compelling messages. With impeccable achievements, he overcame his physical challenges. He told the Guardian UK in 2013 that he contracted transverse myelitis when he was 18. The disease is an inflammation of the spinal cold causing paralysis. “At first I had no downward neck movement, so I had to work really hard to get my brain to work certain parts of my body. I still have residual paralysis and use a wheelchair rolling. I don’t have a lot of strength in my legs, but I have physiotherapy every day to help me maintain some physical strength. I try to eat healthy, I don’t eat junk food,” did he declare.
One of his works, a painted fiberglass titled “Wind Sculpture”, was installed in front of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Art (NMAA) in Washington. The British Council unveiled its first outdoor sculpture in Nigeria in 2016. The Wind Sculpture VI was exhibited at Ndubuisi Kanu Park in Ikeja, Lagos to the admiration of Nigerians during its first solo display in Nigeria.
On his piece, the British Council said: ‘The sculpture is part of a series of significant large-scale works which marked a new beginning for Shonibare working in fiberglass and steel. Using these materials, Shonibare studies the changing motion of wind passing through fabric and encapsulates the pure, three-dimensional volume of wind.
“With his Wind Sculptures series, the artist has captured a moment in time when the wind passes through his Dutch wax batik fabrics on a spectacular scale. actually rendered in steel and fiberglass.Concave and convex organic forms formed by nature are reflected in patterns that replicate traditional “African” fabrics.
“There is a different pattern and palette for each sculpture in the series which is hand painted on the surface with vibrant colors. All of these elements together lend the work a magical, poetic quality that deliberately plays on initial perceptions and frames of reference, a common thread throughout Shonibare’s practice.