By Henry Akubuiro, Lagos
Oluwole Omofemi is currently having an exhibition in London themed “In Our Days”. It’s a reflection of changes and evolvements that have happened over time from the past generation to the present, particularly among African women and how they successfully metamorphosed, blending with the trend, as well as taking the lead in the society and their current disposition towards issues like love, beauty, fashion, the emancipation of women, among others.
In an exclusive chat with Daily Sun from London, the painter shed light on the exhibition, ‘African women during the days of our forefathers generally lack the confidence and boldness to openly express or lend their voices in some issues which include but are not limited to having a protest over their rights, showcasing their beauty or expressing love to the opposite sex due to criticisms that may unfold from different quarters. However, things have drastically changed in our days as women are tired of taking the back seat in all spheres.’
The ongoing exhibition in London, which started on September 2nd, 2021, runs till the 30th day of this month. The exhibition was fixed in London due to the massive support and patronage he enjoyed the last time he had an exhibition. ‘Consequently, the organisers, Signature African Art and I, agreed to have another exhibition, and the result is what is happening at the moment,’ said the artist.
A widely travelled man in Europe, the painter doesn’t want to announce his best outing. He told Daily Sun, ‘to be candid, all the international cities I have ever visited are special to me, and I honestly hold them dear to my heart. Each of these cities, whether London, Barcelona etcetera., appreciated my artworks in terms of crowd and patronage. In fact, the good reports I received before, during and after my exhibition in these cities further boosted my morale.’
All the artworks being exhibited in London constitute his major works. ‘Exaggeration aside,’ said the artist, ‘the level of creativity I infused into each of this artwork, plus the quality of time expended on the same, right from the time the idea is conceived and up to when such artwork becomes a finished product, is not a child’s play. This further explains the value attributed to these artworks.
‘My Rome, as an artist, was not built in a day. I have started painting since my childhood days even before I knew I would eventually become an artist or take up art as a profession. Although I must admit that at some point in my life I wanted to quit art and venture into another profession because of the storms of life at that time, thanks be to God for the advice from fellow artists and God’s timely intervention which saw me through these trying times. My constant romance with oil and canvas, plus the grace of God, diligence, perseverance and hard work, all of which I had already engraved in the tablet of my heart, ushered me into the limelight.’
His favourite medium of painting is oil. Although he also enjoys using other media like acrylic, pastel, etc., his attachment to oil since his childhood days is like an umbilical cord. Of course, growing up in Ibadan greatly influenced him as an artist. ‘It affected my artistic mentality and also gave me a sense of clarity and direction, particularly on my current subject matter, which is afro hair,’ he recalled.
As a niche, the majority of his paintings are women with Afro hair. It all started in Ibadan. He explained: ‘The picture of people with afro hair became clearer to me while growing up in Ibadan where afro fashion was the order of the day. Apart from the fact that Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa, it also housed so many special individuals of different tribes and colours through whom I got to know that the Afro concept was not just about appearances, even though it defines the sumptuous beauty of the African body, but it’s an expression of resistance, reclamation and actualisation.’
‘Hair is special to me just as you have rightly said because of its unique features and symbolic representation. The incident which led to my indulgence in painting hair as a subject matter, particularly afro, began in the late 1960s and early 70s when the civil rights exponents drew more attention to the love-yourself gospel which helped to project confidence, beauty and sparkle to the perception of blacks and their diasporic identity.’
His grandfather, who, then, had an expansive world view, caught onto this movement and fashioned his look along these trends, thereby giving young Omofemi his first snippets into the Afro style. At the moment, the artist doesn’t know whether depicting afro hair would be an enduring or a momentary art.
‘As a contemporary artist, I follow my artistic intuition,’ he echoed.
Compared to Nigerian galleries, Omofemi said those ‘are doing very well in terms of effective marketing of their artists, as well as their artworks, as against galleries in Nigeria.’ For the latter, they ‘ensure that artists increase in value and also go outside their usual way in ensuring that widespread publicity and attention are given to their artists, including their artworks, whenever they are organising exhibitions on their behalf.’
His next exhibition comes up in Barcelona.