Horcelie Sinda in conversation with Omoyeni Arogunmati- Omoyeni Arogunmati is a self-taught artist born in Nigeria, whose love for art began at a young age.
Arogunmati’s abstractive and expressive forms often illustrate the presence of women in the world and
the world around her. With painting at the centre of her practises, Arogunmati often paints from
memory merging bold colours with figurative aspects. Other paintings depict the African woman against
dense red and purples of sunrise, with a sandy texture in the foreground. Her portraits hope to elevate
the presence of women, significantly in places where they are not heard or seen. Arogunmati hopes to
collaborate with artists internationally and work with leading galleries in Nigeria and elsewhere.
What interested you to study art in Nigeria?
O.A: I am a self-taught artist, and I never studied art. Art has always been a big part of my
life, ever since I was young. As a child in elementary school, I was fascinated with the
colours and beautiful illustrations in my books. I started making drawings that were
acknowledged, which were fascinated by my teachers, friends and neighbours. I would
spend hours drawing or cutting empty cartons to create Slippers, house, shoe, bag and
many other things. When many saw my work, they were surprised and praised me.
Their words encouraged me to keep going.
Are there facilities available for artists in Nigeria?
O.A: It depends on the way we look at it; looking at the ample space, lack of projects and Art
installations in Nigerian cities, I think the facilities are available, but the mechanism to
apply is not. Our museums and national monuments need renovation to attract tourists,
and art galleries need government funding support.
In your opinion, do you think Nigerian art is selling or well received?
O.A: Nigerian art is well received, but it is difficult to say that it is selling because of
most artists’ living standards. Nigerian art is more valuable abroad. I think that
politicians and the wealthy should invest in art through patronage.
Is there a continuous theme of ‘impressionism abstract’ in some of your work and why?
O.A: Yes, I work on impressionist abstract art. Impressionism abstraction provides me with some larger space
to express myself with colours, lines and drawing. Through this, I could minimize the use of colours, and
I have the freedom to relate to my ideas. My creative abstract work is somewhat different, the process
is systematic, and I plan. I have no rules when producing a conceptual artwork; I love the spontaneity of
the outcome. It is through the canvas that I can truly express myself.
In the painting Efuru (the feminist woman), the woman looks distressed, is there a reason why you chose to depict her this way?
O.A: I completed Efuru (The feminist woman) last year in 2020 to celebrate international women’s day,
exhibited at the British Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Harriet Thompson residence. The painting
addresses global feminism and the strength of women. It focuses on women’s status in society and
grievances. With the presence of the female, the gaze through her eyes expresses beauty, with intense
emotion, whilst carrying an Efuru book in her hand. In other words, I was inspired by the foremost
woman novelist Flora nwapa book Efuru to create the painting. I see Flora Nwapa as one of the most
relevant women because of her achievements as a leading woman novelist in an environment and
adventures that men had dominated.
In the exhibition, deus ex femina, what did you learn about exhibiting alongside these women? Were there any challenges?
O.A: The Deux ex Femina Exhibition was an incredible experience show at the Akka project in Dubai, UAE. It
celebrates Female artists from Africa, and it confirmed the importance of the presence of women in
today’s contemporary art scene. I’m glad to be part of the show. Deux ex Ferma provided me with a
diversity of women experience across the world. We were able to relate to different cultural
experiences and responses of artists towards individuals’ backgrounds.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions in 2021?
O.A: One of my Portrait Paintings was shown at the online art exhibition “Pray for Myanmar”, a beautiful
group exhibition curated by Antonius Kho showing in Indonesia and turkey. At the moment, I’m
preparing myself for a show. I have an international group art exhibition in Manhattan Gallery in New
York; from May to early June, it will be curated by a famous composer and pianist, Margin Alexander.
I look forward to another collaboration, and I’m hoping that this year will be as Creative as Ever.
Follow Omoyeni Arogunmati on Instagram.