Celebrating the 21st Century African Renaissance with Brushstrokes

A chemistry graduate turned visual artist, Bukola Orioye celebrates people of color and African values ​​in his paintings.

ARTISTS have different thematic concerns, and Bukola Orioye is no different. The 29-year-old painter documents the beauty and virtues of people of color. His brushstrokes that revisit the past also project current societal issues and foreshadow the future. Interestingly, Orioye’s focus on black people coincides with a period when the fine arts are at the forefront of the 21st century African cultural awakening at home and in the diaspora.

The naturally talented artist from Ido-Osi, Ekiti State, has several paintings attesting to his interest in the ongoing black renaissance. Some of his works depict the challenges of people faced with conflicting choices. Orioye notes in one such work, “Seek Within VII series”, that when someone is torn “between the world speaking truth in lies and our inner tone embodying real truth in chaos”, the mental intelligence is put to the test.

In the painting, Orioye brings the past back into visual memory by celebrating men’s hairstyles of the 1980s and 1990s. And with a texture of 21st century black consciousness emboldened by artists of African descent, Orioye’s brushstrokes in her “Seek Within” and “Black Strive with Pride” series also foreshadow the future of fashion and lifestyle. In both paintings, the artist applies past visual icons to stimulate a diverse cultural identity of resilience and timelessness.

“This body of work crosses all aspects of life,” says the artist. “We need to seek mindfulness of tone to understand what we are capable of and how we can achieve it.”

He notes that “the change we seek, the love we ask for, and the way we anticipate the world, must begin with us working hard at it. The thing you ask for begins with you. The question is, are you ready or will you run away?

Notably, the path chosen by Orioye opens doors for him inside and outside Nigeria. During the short period of his young career, the artist exhibited internationally in ‘Portraits’ at Ore Ofe Art Gallery, UK, and ‘Florescence’ at Mitochondria Gallery, Houston. TX, USA, this year.

Orioye’s focus on showcasing beauty and Africanness seems inexhaustible as another of his works, “Black Consciousness”, celebrates African colors. In the painting, Orioye captures a young woman in a sensual pose without exposing any flesh. Her hairstyle is reminiscent of the one that writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie kept at the forefront of fashion.

The creative energy of the artist goes so far as to deploy poetry to accompany some of his paintings. He writes: “I am black! I am a versatile recall of fire and ice. Our ancestors mourn, because our legacy has been taken. Our reminiscences are reduced to dust./As our heritage was taken as a gift.Let our blacks struggle once more in pride.Show the sweetness and resonance of our heritage. A delicate reminder of our bravery and our chastity. The difficulties and successes of my precursor are not forgotten. Where should I evolve from? When I called my origin a taradiddle and myself an illusion Should I seek my neighbor’s truth before my own or vice versa? “The world is not balanced! They may be saying that our knowledge of scale is not balanced by the way. Since we would rather seek a greener pasture almost than water our own, We would rather forget our home to search for treasures in a foreign land. After all, the lawn is greenest where it is watered, And the treasures are found where the earth is dug.

Although he has now started to flex his artistic muscles, Orioye, who was born and raised in Osogbo, Osun State, did not start his life in the arts. His dream of being an artist came true after his first degree in chemistry. He had planned to pursue a Masters in Chemistry at the University of Ibadan in 2019, where his passion for art found a way.

He started with a mentorship under an established professional, Tope Fatunmbi, at TopFat Art Gallery, Adamasingba, Ibadan, Oyo State. After that, he started his professional practice in 2020.

Seeking a distinct signature, Orioye’s brushstrokes found interest in societal issues and life struggles. He then expanded his themes to capture the beauty and culture of people of color, focusing primarily on women. Slowly but surely, the chemist turned artist will get there.

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