Laolu took off early on the part to destiny. First, it was rocky, but he kept at it- one dream at a time.
With a background in law, the young Nigerian artist started out as a human rights lawyer and a struggling visual creative in Nigeria. How does anyone combine legal practice with painting? For Laolu’s family, it was difficult to comprehend, they imagined that it was just a season in his life, a brain wave that will gradually pass, but even then, no one dared to stop him.
The young man continued on his track, devoting minutes, then hours and then days, months…each day better than when he first began. By 2007 Laolu had got a clearer picture of his journey, which led him to brand his style Afromysterics––a term he uses to refer to the “mystery of African pattern.”
After working for the National Human Rights Commission for a few years, Laolu decided to leave quit his job and become a full-time artist. In 2013 he moved to New York where he joined forces with a group of fellow musicians in Brooklyn to form Laolu Senbanjo & the Afromysterics.
He also took strategic steps to get his Yoruba-influenced art to the world. He took interest in painting the human body after he spotted a photo of New York-based jewelry designer and model Reign Apim posing in front of his art.
“I could see an extension of her. It was like everything just came together in that work,” he explains. Laolu contacted Reign and that began an amazing success journey.
For Laolu, art transcends the obvious, real art he believes should never be limited to walls and museums, everything should be art.
Torn between his love for music and art, the gifted artist finds a way to bridge the gap, creating a perfect union; one, flowing from the other, eventhough he finds himself favouring his passion for art more sometimes.
Speaking about the need for Africans in the diaspora to connect to their heritage, he tells okay Africa.com
It’s not where I want it to be, but it’s on the rise. I’ve met people who have never been to Africa who were born here to African parents. They speak Yoruba or they speak Igbo. That is impressive. A lot of people lose that. Language is one of the first things you lose.
There were points in time when to be African in this country was not cool. You got made fun of in school for your accent. You said your name and people laughed. But now people think the names are cool because all of a sudden it’s cool to have that African-ness. I want people to go beyond being cool and reach out. Go to Africa if you have the chance. Go to these places. Understand what is behind these cultures. Try to speak the language. Eat the food. Get to know the people. When you get to know the people, you understand their values, the essence of their art and culture more. We shouldn’t just speak and choose what we want.
Most recently, Laolu, now 34, was selected by Nike as one of their Masters of Air. His work gained a huge platform at Air Max Con NYC and has now attracted international acclaim. According to Nike, at Air Max Con, Laolu will be creating art, incorporating his love for Air Max, New York City, and sports.
An amazing feat and fantastic reward for good labour.
Like Laolu, determine to set out on the path of your purpose. Never feel threatened or discouraged by nay-sayers. Keep the focus and choose to have a good attitude. Soon, the world will be sharing your story. Just do it!
© 2016 – 2017, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.