Articles and Features

Artland Spotlight On: Nigerian Artists

“Creativity is freedom, in every way.”

Abi Salami

For the avid art collector and the art lover alike, ‘Artland Spotlight On’ is a series highlighting a selection of artists who have grabbed our attention, from emerging players in the art scene, through well-established names, to icons of contemporary art.
As the market for African contemporary art has taken off over the past years, with the Nigerian and South African markets boasting the pole position, the first edition of this series is dedicated to Nigerian artists.

Although Nigeria has had a remarkable tradition of contemporary sculpture, textile and performance art, not to mention the Yoruba modernism of the Osogbo school and the Zaria Rebels, it has been only in the past decades that Nigerian contemporary artists have come under the spotlight in a long but steady process that peaked with two events: the 2016 launch of ART X Lagos, the first international art fair in West Africa – the sixth edition will be held in November 2021 – and the works by Njideka Akunyili-Crosby selling for upward of $3 million in 2018. Not even the adversity due to the current global pandemic seems to have bucked this trend.
Get your art fix and enjoy our curated selection of Nigerian contemporary artists.
All works are available on Artland’s marketplace.

Sejiro Avoseh

Sejiro Avoseh, I go Chop you Before I die, 2020; and Imaginative Portrait 8 (Glass series), 2021. Nigerian artists
Sejiro Avoseh, I go Chop you Before I die, 2020. Acrylic and oil stick on paper, 74 × 53 cm / 29.1 × 20.9 in (left);
Imaginative Portrait 8 (Glass series), 2021. Mixed Media on Glass, 37 × 29 cm / 14.6 × 11.4 in (right).

Listed as one of 18 Nigerian young visual artists under 30 to follow by art critic and author Jess Castellote, Sejiro Avoseh (b. 1990) has developed an idiosyncratic language in the form of collage.
Combining colour with found materials such as newspaper and magazine cut-outs like fragments of experience, he creates as much detailed as distorted forms in the intersection between abstraction and figuration, phantoms of human bodies which reflect the mutations of society.
“I am painting the lives that have entered mine, I am also painting the effects these lives have had on mine; how they have lifted me,” he stated. Tapping into personal experience and memories, Sejiro Avoseh’s works raise a critical voice on abuse and injustice in contemporary society.

Sejiro Avoseh lives and works in Lagos, where he graduated in painting at the Lagos State Polytechnic. Earlier this year, some of his recent works have been displayed by AFIKARIS gallery in Paris as part of the group exhibition RÉSISTE.

Abi Salami

Abi Salami, A Portrait of an Artist Surviving a Pandemic, 2020; and
Voodoo Queen, 2021. Nigerian artists
Abi Salami, A Portrait of an Artist Surviving a Pandemic, 2020. Acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 121.9 × 91.4 × 3.8 cm / 48 × 36 × 1.5 in (left);
Voodoo Queen, 2021. Acrylic paint and gold leaf on canvas, 121.9 × 91.4 cm / 48 × 36 in (right).

Born in 1986 in Lagos, Nigeria, Abi Salmi emigrated with her family to the United States when she was ten. A self-taught artist, Abi earned an MPA in Accounting and worked in public accounting and real estate for almost a decade. It was only three years ago that she decided to abandon the desk life and pursue her dream of becoming a full-time artist. A dream which has been fulfilled, as she has since exhibited across the United States.

Today based in Dallas, Texas, Abi Salami primarily works in acrylic paint, but also enjoys experimenting with other artistic media – especially collage – to explore the everyday and themes of black womanhood and mental illness. Suffering herself from bipolar disorder, she is particularly devoted to creating awareness, through her whimsical, symbolic paintings, about the importance of mental health, especially within African communities. In a recent interview, she said “I’m excited to be able to share my artwork, which promotes positive depictions of black womanhood while promoting positive mental health. My hope is that my message will reach a broader audience and hopefully help those who are struggling with self-esteem or other mental issues because they don’t see themselves adequately represented in the media. I’m looking forward to tearing down debilitating stereotypes and taboos and replacing them with positive messaging and imagery.”

Abe Odedina

Abe Odedina, Farewell, 2020; and 
The Party's Over, 2018. Nigerian Artists
Abe Odedina, Farewell, 2020. Acrylic on plywood, 122 × 80 cm / 48 × 31.5 in (left);
The Party’s Over, 2018. Acrylic on plywood, 122.2 × 81 cm / 48.1 × 31.9 in (right).

Trained as an architect, Odedina came to painting relatively late in life when, on a trip across South America with his family, he was deeply impressed by local art and spirituality, particularly by Candomblé, a religion fusing Catholic and Yoruba beliefs. He decided to buy a second home in Salvador and to dedicate his life to painting.
Working in acrylic on plywood, he creates flat surfaces where stylized, timeless figures in contrasting, primary colours and seemingly simple in composition evoke an allegorical world suspended between reality and imagination,
His works mix the divine in each of its aspects – from religion to cosmology, from rituals to mythology – with the bustling atmosphere of Lagos, Salvador de Bahia and Port-au-Prince, but are also imbued with the figurative and oral traditions of African art.

“We are hemmed between two massive mysteries. We don’t know where we came from and we don’t know the details of how we’re going to go out. So we deal with that gap in between, in marvellous ways if we’re lucky. This pretty hopeless situation is the human condition that unifies us all,” he stated.
Today, he lives between London and Salvador, and describes himself as a folk artist. His works are included in major international collections including The British Government Art Collection and the Serge Tiroche Collection.

Oluwole Omofemi

Oluwole Omofemi, Root I, 2019; and
Ariyike Golden Tear, 2019. Nigerian artists
Oluwole Omofemi, Root I, 2019. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 120 × 120 cm / 47.2 × 47.2 in (left);
Ariyike Golden Tear, 2019. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 140 × 120 cm / 55.1 × 47.2 in (right).

Strongly inspired by the Civil Rights Movement as well as the natural hair movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Nigerian artist Oluwole Omofemi (b. 1988) reflects on postcolonialism by finding in hair a metaphor for identity and freedom.
Assimilating women to God for their loving and forgiving nature, Omofemi mostly portrays female characters, whose lush black hair dominate the painting compositions and brim over the edges in what the artist has described as a “celebration of Afrocentric pride.”
Realized in acrylic and oil on canvas, his paintings display at times dark palettes reminiscent of the Old Masters, at times vibrant pop art colours.
After first exhibiting at the National Museum of Ibadan, Nigeria, Omofemi’s works have been showcased at prestigious galleries across Africa and Europe, and are widely collected in Nigeria and abroad.

Relevant sources to learn more

Nigerian Artist Dennis Osadebe On Isolation, Neo-Africa, and the Abundant Lagos Art Scene