Oluwole Omofemi
Photo Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Oluwole Omofemi's work has enjoyed widespread attention worldwide, with exhibitions across galleries in London, Spain, New York, and Italy alongside virtual auctions.

OkayAfrica caught up with Oluwole Omofemi in Ibadan, Nigeria, to talk about five standout paintings and the messages he was trying to convey in the work.

In May 2022, Tatler Magazine contacted Oluwole Omofemi for a commission to paint a portrait of the Queen of England. This became a turning point for the artist; Omofemi became the first African artist to paint the Queen.

Omofemi is no overnight success. Most of his work has enjoyed widespread attention worldwide, with exhibitions across galleries in London, Spain, New York, and Italy alongside virtual auctions.

Since 2017, Omofemi's paintings have been deeply rooted in socio-political themes. A handful of his works depict Black women with an afro and tribal markings. For the artist, the use of afro hair is an emblem of liberation, identity, and power. At the same time, his use of bald-headedness and tribal markings can be seen as a representation or a way of conserving African heritage and tradition.

OkayAfrica caught up with Omofemi in Ibadan, Nigeria, to talk about five standout paintings and the messages he was trying to convey in the work.

Lost Identity (2020/2021)

Lost Identity painting

Photo Credit: Oluwole Omofemi

The three people in the painting and their painted faces metaphorically and literally represent the transformation of African appearance as far as our culture and fashion are concerned. Before colonization, Africans had their way of life and their way of appearing beautifully dressed. When the Europeans came, they made Africans believe that our culture was archaic and thus reshaped the whole structure of our way of life through civilization, thereby creating distortion in the history of our culture.

Face painting, however, is an integral part of our cultural life as far as African beauty is concerned. Not only does it exist as an art form, it is also of cultural significance. The face paintings and the colorful attires are representations of what the African mode of dressing entails. It is part of our cultural heritage and values which constitutes an integral part of our life as Africans.

Blue Cup (2020)

Blue Cup painting

Photo Credit: Oluwole Omofemi

The U.S slavery era inspired this piece. The painting depicts a time when the white wives of slave owners would use a gentle strike to their teacup to summon house slaves. “Blue Cup” further outlines the idea of race as a natural division of human beings that was invented to legitimize, facilitate, and bolster a racist agenda. Multiple systems of domination present in society, stemming from long-lasting legacies of categorical racism, colonialism, slavery, and imperialism, elucidate the symbolism and the significance of the teacup in preserving this white rule over the Black body.

Sister II (2020)

Sister II painting

Photo Credit: Oluwole Omofemi

The sisterhood inspired this painting. I believe that true sisterhood helps us share the light and dark parts of our journey. It allows us to see the best of who we are in another woman's eyes. With this series of paintings, I wanted to portray the validation and affirmation that comes from being, indeed, seen by another person.

The Pathfinder (2017)

The Pathfinder painting

Photo Credit: Oluwole Omofemi

An antelope is a pathfinder. Pathfinders often come into our lives to let us know that there is a place somewhere in our lives where we have lost our ways. Antelope speaks of decisiveness and speed of action, which requires us to step out of our heads, to stop thinking our way, and start feeling our way. There is a way of thinking that goes beyond analysis and categorization, which can often slow our actions down and lead to indecision. There is a part of us — a part of our minds — that is in touch with things that our rational literal minds cannot know. We cannot flow through life; we cannot be in the zone unless we listen to that part of ourselves and allow it to lead us to and through places we do not understand.

With "The Pathfinder," I wanted to convey the idea that humans can be as swift as an antelope, and our bodies can flow effortlessly if we just allow ourselves to trust in more than what we already know, what we can name, or what we can analyze. This is more than just animal instinct. This is the place of spirit and inspiration.

For Christ Sake (2019)

For Christ Sake artist

Photo Credit: Oluwole Omofemi

"For Christ sake " is highly inspired by domestic violence, which is a form of gender-based violence experienced by women and girls in their homes. It occurs in the form of battery, sexual abuse of female children and workers, female genital mutilation, dowry-related violence, marital rape, and emotional, verbal, psychological, economic, and spiritual abuse. The painting further addresses the issue of how domestic violence is deeply rooted in religion.

Growing up, I witnessed how women from religious homes were being molested and battered for the sake of being submissive to their husbands because their Bible or holy book tells them to be so. So I wanted to use the painting to express this issue with the Bible signifying how religion encompasses domestic violence.

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