One thing you cannot take away from Nigerian youths is their ability to create something out of nothing. There is a common saying, if you can survive in Nigeria, you can survive (or thrive) anywhere in the world. Nigerian Artists have consistently proven to be one of the strongest survivors in the Black community.
Nigerian culture is rich in art and creativity, and although the environment to create threads in a downward spiral against the productivity of Nigerians, these resilient individuals continue to evolve and use their creative skills to inform, educate, entertain, and ultimately carve a good image for their country.
Whether it is Music, Art, Entertainment, or Tech, Nigerians are constantly evolving and cannot be left out of the pack of leading creatives around the world. As the world explores new and innovative ways to create and depict Art, some Nigerian Artists are making remarkable statements with their Art and creations. These Nigerian Artists are highlighted due to their creativity, scope of work, compelling stories expressed in their oeuvres, and collective impact on the creative community.
The pioneer of the “Contemporealism” movement is a Nigerian visual artist that specializes in conceptual drawings on various surfaces as a form of storytelling. Ken Nwadiogbu explores multidisciplinary modes that seek to address multiple aspects of the human experience including Gender equality, African culture, Black power, migration, and the journey of life.
Unique to Ken’s work is an embedded eye or human part in his canvas, stimulating the viewer into being in his shoes while they interact with his work. He employs familiar motifs and imagery to ease them into this space. It is always a sight to behold. Ken Nwadiogbu is one of the talented Nigerian Artists putting Nigeria on the global creative map.
A striking feature of Ken’s art pieces is his ability to recreate his realities as a young Nigerian, thereby invoking a unique humanist connection to ongoing issues of racism, police brutality, culture conflict, and projecting the experiences of black lives across the globe. Ken utilizes several media such as charcoal, acrylic, paint, and collage without discarding the hyperrealism effect.
An outstanding personality, Ken Nwadiogbu does not just create art for the love of it, but constantly seeks to inspire and encourage young creatives. When he is not painting on canvas, he extends his creativity through public speaking, mentorship, and creative companies (Artland Contemporary Limited and KINGS Management). He facilitates an art collective called ‘Title Deed’ and co-founds Artists Connect NG, the most attended artist gathering in Nigeria, to foster creativity, collaboration, and community.
Ken Nwadiogbu continuously revitalizes his practice by challenging modes of Black representation. His collective art pieces do more than encompass various forms of drawing but most recently transcend into photography, sculpture, installation, and performance art.
His exhibitions and achievements include “Journey Mercies” (Bomb Factory Art Foundation, London), “Ubuntu” (Thinkspace Projects, Los Angeles, USA) “Contemporealism” (BrickLane Gallery, London), “Real-Life Is Fragile” (Thinkspace Projects, Los Angeles, USA), “Fresh” (Padre gallery, New York, USA), “Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Collection” (Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, UK), The Future Awards Africa Prize for Art (Visual/Applied) Bridgeman Studio Award, and being named by Guardian Life as one of the most Outstanding Personalities of 2019 in recognition of his contributions to the Nigerian art community.
Ayanfe is a seasoned visual artist, widely known for her distinct explorative skill of scribbling and mixed media to tell compelling stories through her art. Ayanfe has a unique form of art that she has developed over the years as she unravels the depths of her skills.
She creates through a self-coined process called – Jagaism, involving lines scribbled on several mediums to give meaning to her art. Her quest for acceptance bore this unique art form through which she can unpack her emotions in thought-provoking ways.
Her artistic dynamism connects enthusiasts in more perspectives than one as she exploits her use of several mediums such as ink, paint, wire, and discarded objects. She uses these mediums to create doodles, sculptures, paintings, digital art, upcycled artworks, and textures for her scribbles while highlighting broader concerns of self-exploration, socio-political issues, Black excellence, and more.
Predominant with Ayanfe’s work is an implicit thematic projection of her interests in self-image, identity formation, gender construct, mental health, society’s and government’s impact as she explores untold stories. She was among the selected few to showcase at the “Say my name” exhibition at Signature African Art Gallery, Mayfair, London, to commemorate the #BlackLivesMatter campaign in 2020.
Ayanfe is internationally recognized, as her (Dem Bobo) series amongst other exhibitions propelled her and her stories to the international art community. Her growth is evident and has had a reverberating impact on the global creative scene. Several of Ayanfe’s works appear on Reuters News, CNN, Euro News, NowThisNews, Vogue, Channels, Konbini, and MSN, to mention but a few.
As one of the young women advancing the frontiers of the Nigerian Art scene, Ayanfe’s creativity does not end at scribbling. She also mentors young creatives at is also known for her love for the conceptual aspect of photography, with works and exhibitions including Real Life is Fragile, ThinkSpace Art Gallery, Los Angeles, USA, Unusual Suspects, African Artists Foundation (AAF), Lagos, Black Voices (Friends of my mind), Ross-Sutton Gallery, New York, USA, and more.
Her Gusto to create and tell untold stories with her art has earned her several accolades, and more recently, listed amongst the 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria. Ayanfe was the only Nigerian to win the Creative Industry Award at the 2020 African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards (AWIEF), reinforcing her position as one of the most prominent creatives in the African art scene.
The Lagos-born creative is a multidisciplinary artist based in Lagos with exceptional skill. With titles such as “Where we dey go now”, “Real-life is fragile”, “Being Buhari”, and “Eniyan”, Yusuff Aina is one of the young Nigerian artists using his works to tell stories of the Nigerian people and black community at large.
The art technique Yusuff employs is called Ainaism, and it is composed of creative lines, African patterns, and symbols. Ainaism derives from “Aina” the Yoruba name for a child born with the umbilical cord around the body. The artist uses inks, charcoal, and colors to express his style on any surface, such as textiles, body art, interior design, graffiti, etc.
The lines in Yusuff’s work bring to mind the pressures the child faces in the womb, the freedom he gets at birth, and the struggles and challenges he faces in his lifetime. His art depicts the challenges encountered by men, both spiritually and physically; the spaces between the lines represent the possibilities and breakthroughs (success). He uses his art to inspire and motivate Men to stay focused and humble. That is one dominant thing about his works of art.
Yusuff Aina is known for the unique wooden mask he calls – Eniyan, a Yoruba word that translates to – Human being. Using this unique identifier, he stands out from his peers and expresses himself more comprehensively at public events and exhibitions. He aims to use his unique art form to inform, motivate, and share expressions of man in ways that can be relatable to even the photophobic.
Yusuff’s work includes pan-Africanism, Black Power, socio-political concerns, and is a medium through which people of different ethnicities and backgrounds can express their experience of identity, isolation, and survival. Some of his exhibitions have taken place at Retro Africa, Moniker Art Fair, ThinkspaceArt, and African Artists Foundation.