Nigerian Internet Sensation Uses Fame To Give A Voice To African Artists

Written by Ann Brown

Using the people of his Lagos community as subjects, Nigerian painter Oresegun Olumide creates oil paintings that are so realistic, they have become a viral sensation.

His Instagram account has 15,000-plus followers and social media have helped his career in an environment where art is considered a luxury and the government is too strapped to support the arts.

Born in Ikorodu, Olumide, 35, started painting when he was just 4. He went on to study fine art at Yaba College of Technology in Yaba, Lagos. By 2005 Olumide had launched his professional art career. Today, he owns an art studio in Lagos, selling and showcasing his work.

While the art scene in Nigeria is vibrant, like many other countries in Africa there is a lack of support for artists.

There are a few African art fairs held in Africa but many more happening outside Africa, The Guardian reported. “African biennales and fairs (which happen too infrequently by the way) such as the Bamako or Dakar Biennial are often fully funded by the French or the local former colonial power … A combination of lack of access, state interest and resources has made it difficult for curators and artists to consistently organize art fairs.”

Like many other artists, Olumide had uphill battle building his career. But now thanks to his viral internet exposure, his career is on the upswing. Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo are his art role models, Olumide told AFKInsider. Here’s more insight about his life and work.

Nigerian painter Oresegun Olumide. Photo: Facebook

AFKInsider: Are you surprised by all the attention your work has been getting?

Oresegun Olumide: Yes, I am really surprised with the attention. It’s been coming from all over the world.  I see my painting getting attraction from everyone in the world soon and also being on view in all museums around the world.


Art by Oresegun Olumide. Photo: Facebook


AFKInsider: How do you market your paintings?

Oresegun Olumide: I market my painting through exhibitions in Nigerian galleries where I have had all my three solo exhibitions, and also in my own gallery.  A private collector also has exhibited my work as well.

AFKInsider: Is Nigeria supportive to artists?

Oresegun Olumide: Our government has not been directly involved in the support I have received but private companies and individuals locally have been very supportive. We should have a structure for art and museums to showcase the African heritage to the world.

AFKInsider: What is it like to be an artist in Nigeria?

Oresegun Olumide: It quite challenging to be an artist in my community. My society don’t accept art and artists well. It is not a priority because everyone is concerned of what they can get to eat and where to live first. So I could graduate with distinction in art school and still find it difficult. Unfortunately that type of distinction–graduating with honors–is good for graduating in different fields, such as medical students. Those types of students are at a great advantage, especially in comparison to art majors.

AFKInsider: How were your art studies?

Oresegun Olumide: I studied art at Nigeria’s foremost art college, Yaba College of Technology and graduated with distinction in painting, so it was very satisfying.

Art by Oresegun Olumide. Photo: Facebook


AFKInsider: What are some goals for 2017 for your art?

Oresegun Olumide: My goal is for my work to be recognized and acquired worldwide and also for me to continue to increase my own knowledge about art.

AFKInsider: Africa has been known for its art throughout history, but some may say it has not been give its due value.  What do you want people, collectors to know about African artists?

Oresegun Olumide:  I would like them to understand that artists can bring to life the history of Africa through painting. We can tell Africa’s story. But we need  funding to do so.  Art by contemporary African artists should be hanging in museums for all to see.