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My art is a mix of modernity, tradition – Ibrahim

Ibrahim Saleh Lamishi is an artist of northern Nigeria extraction, who aims to capture African life through vibrant colours and the expressive aesthetics of African…

Ibrahim Saleh Lamishi is an artist of northern Nigeria extraction, who aims to capture African life through vibrant colours and the expressive aesthetics of African art. In an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, he discusses his passion and artistic journey.

If your paintings could speak, what story or message do you think they would convey?

It conveys an understanding of the visual elements present in various art forms and the lifestyle of Africa, combining modernity with tradition. The fusion of figurative abstraction is evident in my works, depicting the concept of African beauty.

Can you describe your artistic style or technique?

I tend to focus on incorporating bright, vivid colours and expressive African aesthetics into aspects of spiritualism and human passion. I also utilise a combination of landscape, abstraction, and the assembly of various materials to create works that reflect the beauty of the surrounding environment, thereby imparting cultural and societal value to a broader audience.

How do you approach the blank canvas?

The inspiration that comes to me is what I see reflected within my environment. Sometimes, the mood, mind-set and events around me dictate what I should create on my blank canvas, allowing me to communicate with society and convey the true essence of artwork. In today’s society, many perceive art merely as a means to adorn our walls. However, what I produce on my blank canvas demands attention and carries profound meaning, urging people to recognise that art transcends mere decoration and embodies what we observe in our surroundings.

paintings by ibrahim saleh
paintings by ibrahim saleh


What thoughts or emotions run through your mind as you begin a new painting?

I think of the hardships and suffering of the future and how we artists can use art to help the world understand. Through art, we can communicate effectively with the government without violating the law. As artists, it’s our responsibility to draw attention to the government’s need for action regarding suffering and hardships. Therefore, when creating art, I strive to produce pieces that captivate the attention of every viewer.

If you could collaborate with any other artist, living or deceased, who would it be and why?

Yes, I would love to work closely with Maryam Maigida because of her passion and dedication to art. In her artwork, she creates pieces that capture the attention of the northern people who have suffered from kidnappings for many years. Unfortunately, the leaders have not made significant efforts to resolve this ongoing issue. Her work has inspired me and sparked ideas, and if possible, I would like to collaborate closely with her to create impactful artwork on canvas that will draw attention to the plight of our people and urge our leaders to take action.

Do you have any rituals or habits that help you get into the creative zone before starting a painting?

None. Because I don’t believe in that. But that does not mean artists who have a spiritual habit in creating their artwork are wizards of some kind. It’s just dependent on the beliefs of the artist.

How do you navigate the balance between staying true to your artistic vision and adapting to feedback or criticism from others?

As an artist, it’s normal to receive various forms of criticism because negative feedbacks can strengthen your work and guide your improvements. Every artwork must undergo critique because what I perceive as good may not resonate with others, and each viewer’s perspective differs. Therefore, every artist should embrace criticism as an integral part of their creative process.

If you could paint a scene from your wildest dreams or imagination, what would it be and why?

A village setting of how I was been brought up to where I am today and some other African fashion style.

Are there any recurring themes or motifs in your work?

Yes, African motifs. They depict my true identity, where I came from, who I am and where I am heading to. I always try to create artworks related to the African culture that will speak the value of our cultural beliefs.

What draws you to explore these themes?

The fashion lifestyle of our African beauty symbolizes that we as Africans are special and naturally beautiful. We don’t need to rely on modern things to enhance our appearance.

How do you know when a painting is finished?

No artwork is ever finished, you can only be satisfied with it but it can never be finished. An artwork can be a finish work depending on the client satisfaction. Also, as an artist, we sometimes have to pretend the artwork is finished because we believe the more you put your brush on the canvas you may end up spoiling the work.

Do you ever struggle with letting go and declaring a piece complete?

Yes, I do. However, when I let go, I look to the possibility of creating something better.

How do you feel your cultural background or personal experiences influence your art?

Culture, we say, is a way of life. As an artist, I strive to create pieces that replicate and draw viewers’ attention to the belief that the beauty of life resides in our culture. Through my brush strokes and vibrant colours, I aim to captivate the viewer, utilizing thick layers that invite engagement, allowing them to touch and feel the essence of the artwork.

Can you share a particularly memorable reaction or response someone had to one of your paintings?

Yes, the messages went like this; you are good and you can do more keep it up. Also, try to go outside so you can be well known to international art collectors. You are very young and confident of yourself. The way you express yourself on a canvas show you know what you are doing.

If you had to paint a self-portrait that captured your essence beyond physical appearance, what elements or symbols would you include?

The movement of the brush strokes and the African style that depicts our identity as Nigerians. There is a proverb that says ‘let’s do it GBAGYI GBAGYI’ meaning let’s do it with our identity so it could be seen and will tell where we come from.


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