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‘How painting naira notes became my mouthpiece’ – Bamaiyi Danladi

Bamaiyi Danladi is a fast-rising artist who uses mural art as a form of expression. At age 23, he painted homes for a living while…

Bamaiyi Danladi is a fast-rising artist who uses mural art as a form of expression. At age 23, he painted homes for a living while awaiting admission to study Fine Arts in the university.

In this interview, he speaks about the inspiration behind his making paintings of naira notes, how online videos helped him grow, and more. Excerpts:

How did your journey as an artist begin?

I started with drawings as a child. I am from Dutse, a community in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State, close to the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) orientation camp. While staying with my grandmother, I used to frequent the camp to watch a particular corp member draw.

Also, last year I benefitted from a one-week training by a graffiti artist, JC Josh, for upcoming artists like me. That further prompted the desire to go back to drawing. I took it forward by watching more videos online and followed artists like Eli Waduba, who drew Kevin Hart, and other top artists.

Your work trended on social media when you made murals depicting figures with face masks on the Nigerian currency. What inspired that?

Despite government’s efforts during lockdown caused by the coronavirus, I noticed that people were not taking the pandemic seriously. They were not adhering to the measures put in place by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), such as the use of face masks, washing hands regularly and maintaining social distancing. In my community for instance, people were sceptical and so I felt I needed to contribute by relaying a message which will be impactful and also complement the efforts of government to inform the people on the importance of complying with the measures. I decided to use a wall not far from my house to make the painting.

Why did you choose to paint N50 and N1,000 notes?

I chose those particular notes because they have figures representing the three major tribes in Nigeria. I felt it would show that the tribes need to unite to fight the pandemic together by maintaining social distancing. If you look at the images on the N50 note, you will observe there is no physical distancing among them and their heads are joined together. But I made sure to create space in order to separate them. I did this to start a discussion, but the interpretation can be found on the inscriptions I added that says “maintain physical distance, wash hands regularly and stay safe.”

What specifically attracted you to mural paintings?

I drew on paper to decorate my room and noticed that it wasn’t visible to a large audience. But for murals, since it is in a public space, it becomes visible to pedestrians who relate to the message on the wall.

What reactions has your work generated so far?

The reactions have been positive. I got featured on Radio Nigeria, got more followers on social media, and some people are showing interest in my work. So, it has been motivating. Financially, I am yet to feel the impact. Art is not appreciated in our clime but I am optimistic that I will get a sponsor someday. I contested in a competition by Unabashed Africa with the theme ‘Art During Covid-19,’ and I came third.

You also paint homes for a living. What is the experience like?

House painting has been a source of finance for me. Whenever I am called to paint a house, the money I make goes into art. I learnt painting for four years and through that, I learned how to mix colours. I can produce motion paint, gloss paint and satin paint.

Who are your role models in the art industry?

There are some artists whose work have influenced me and I hope to meet them someday. A typical example is JC Josh, Clement colours, and Eli Waduba. All of them are into different forms of art, comprising graffiti, portrait painting and pencil portrait, respectively. I can do an infusion of the three but I will like to focus on mural because I find myself doing it with ease.

What is your vision for the future?

My dream is to be one of the best painters in Nigeria. I will keep putting more effort and practice harder. I try to watch two or three videos online a day to upgrade my skills and I am seeking admission into Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to study Fine Arts. I want to go into paint production and I have already registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). My next step is to get approval from Nigerian Mark of Quality (NIS).

What is your advice for other artists?

They should keep pushing. Even if support doesn’t come now, I know one day it would pay off. Art is my passion. I love painting and no matter what, I will keep at it and wait for the day the story will change.