My Art, My Life

tunde odunlade

I was born into a Royal family of Ile Ife. They gave me a name and Oriki (praise poetry about the child) on the 8th day. That is normal for children born into a cultural Yoruba family. Sometimes it’s just a name, or a few words. Mine was a detailed epistle. This was truly the beginning of my journey, even though I was unaware of its impact. 

I started my art career in 1973. After secondary school, I started out as a studio practice artist under my Aunt’s husband, a wonderful artist – Yinka Adeyemi. That was the foundation for me. All my other studies were built on what he had taught me. After my practice years, I attended a workshop by the University of Ife, now the University of Ibadan.

One thing that struck me along this journey was how similar my life was to my Oriki. I was not conscious of it until 1988. A writer who was working on my biography drew my attention to it. My Oriki made reference to different aspects of my life. It spoke of my personality, my career, art style, choice of art materials, travels, and a lot more. It was like a path was created for me in life and I had followed it without knowing.

Today my work is on display in some of the most prestigious art galleries around the world. Seeing my work appreciated gives me a lot of satisfaction. For me, art should have meaning. I’ve been fortunate enough to show that with my work at different levels. One of the more fulfilling experiences was being commissioned to use my art to show the Paris Club how the national debt was affecting us. I was happy to see that art was given a place in the national discourse. 

For me, it’s all about the message and the difference it’s making. I started this gallery last year and there are over 50 artists’ represented here. I’m glad that young artists can exhibit their work here. It’s nice to be a conduit for these younger people.

It has been a good ride so far and hopefully, there’s more to come.

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