#AfricanCreativeSeries: Affen Oluwasegun Ojo is a Nigerian-based contemporary artist more popularly known as Ojayartworksng. His works have become very popular on social media where he has a large following who appreciate his unique black portraits of African women.

 

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Can you tell us more about your background and when you first started painting?

I’m a Native of bayesla state, Nigeria, I was brought up in Lagos, I started painting at a very young age, I discovered my talent of painting while I was in primary school, then I was later enrolled in roadside local art shop where I got to know about the basics of art.

How did you came to pursue a creative path?

Well, it all started when I discovered that I could draw, it all started by me recreating comic characters and a couple of pictures, then I was able to grow into it, I knew art was a part of me and something I loved doing then I decided take it as career path and create a niche for myself.Ayoola – BetterShared

Do you have a favourite piece that you’ve created?

My favorite piece has to be The Bantu Knots Piece, the piece has an interesting history, it is a piece that speaks about the African culture especially the women, Many people aren’t aware of the history behind the popular bantu knots hairstyle. The hairstyle features lovely small, coiled buns sprinkled throughout the hair. The style has been worn traditionally for centuries by countless women of African descent.

What are the central themes of your work?

The central theme of my works is majorly the Black culture, which relates to African culture – This is one thing my paintings talk about from the colours used to the fabric used too, which is the Ankara fabric that signifies the African culture.

If you could sit down and have a meal with one artist/designer/musician in the world, who would it be and why?

It has to be Benny Bing because he is my favourite artist and he’s someone that really inspires me a lot, so an opportunity to meet with him is something I’d really cherish because he is one person whose works has contributed to my growth.

Tell us a bit about where you were born and where you are living now. Are all these places important to your identity and to your artwork?

Well like I said earlier, I was born and brought up in Lagos, Nigeria which like they say is the business capital of the country. It is the state with the highest combined ratio of all the tribes in Nigeria and one of the most populated city in Africa, and I still stay in Lagos. The environment and culture of the people made me carve out my niche as an artist that focuses on the Black culture.

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Africa is a new economic frontier where young people are shaping Africa’s future. What do they want to see, hear and read that will inspire them to embrace African arts and culture?

For me, contemporary art can play a major role in this age, because based on the experiences it is something most people can relate to, also we can see that this new generation of youths in Africa are working on new ideas to transform the economic landscape of the continent, this same group are increasingly focusing on the creative aspect of the economy, also how culture develops at the local level. For example, we see a lot of entrepreneurs that want to see local cultural scene prosper and how it connects with their brands and personal interests.

It can be argued that Africa’s time is now. How do we prepare to take full advantage of the opportunities that are constantly unfolding in front of us? More importantly how does the African contemporary art establishment position itself to emerge as a ‘global player’ whose voice can be heard and respected?

From my perspective as an independent artist, I’ve seen that there are couple of obstacles to overcome as contemporary art transcends to a global stage, Firstly, there is not yet a fully established infrastructure for the art market, most of the independent artists like me have to simultaneously produce work also work as their own agents. So, there is a need for a stronger institutional base for contemporary art in Africa, one of the key elements to making this possible is working together. This idea brings up a strong and thriving art community that has a voice of its own rather than it being dictated to.

When you are not painting, What other interests do you have?

Apart from painting, traveling is one other that really interests me, I’ll really love to tour the world to also learn about other culture and the people there, who knows – I might get inspired by a few sightings.

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