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Nigeria contributes significantly to African art market – Nefe Ogodo

Nefe Ogodo is a Warri-born artist with a love for drawing since childhood, and infuses his art with Nigerian heritage. In this interview with Daily…

Nefe Ogodo is a Warri-born artist with a love for drawing since childhood, and infuses his art with Nigerian heritage. In this interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Ogodo shares how he navigates the art world by blending tradition with innovation and leveraging social media for global reach.

Let’s start with your background. How did that influence your career path as an artist?

I was born and raised in Warri, Delta State. My passion for drawing bloomed early. As a sign of early inclination, I filled my exercise books with sketches and adorned neighbourhood walls and cars with my drawings and paintings. Even at 8, I was crafting movie storylines in my school notebooks. 

How do you incorporate elements of Nigerian heritage and culture into your art in a way that resonates with diverse audiences?

My cultural roots inspire me, and I strive to balance tradition and innovation by interweaving historical themes into contemporary expression.

How do you approach the challenge of balancing cultural authenticity with global artistic trends in your work?

I have done a lot of research around ancient African cultures and traditions and I love celebrating our rich cultural heritage. I like to blend historical roots with fresh perspectives.

Can you share your insights on the current trends shaping the Nigerian art market, and how artists can capitalize on them?

The Nigerian art market is a vibrant and dynamic space, influenced by both local and global factors. Currently, there’s a cultural reawakening amongst Nigerians, more and more Nigerians are investing in the art industry, more art collectors are emerging from Nigeria. By making strong art that addresses societal issues and engaging in art exhibitions, more artists are being exposed.

What role do you see technology playing in the future of Nigerian art, particularly in terms of creation, distribution, and engagement?

Technology is very helpful to artists today because it makes work easier, faster and better. Social media has further made selling art easier. So, I can sit down in my studio and post my painting and get someone in the UK purchasing my art in dollars.

How do you stay informed about changes and developments in the Nigerian art scene?

I’m a member of the Society of Nigerian Artists and also a member of the Pan African Circle of Artists. A lot of art information circulate amongst these associations. Away from that, I read art journals and magazines, I follow a lot of artists and galleries on social media. I attend exhibitions, I visit art galleries and museums quite often.

Can you discuss the importance of mentorship and community support for emerging artists in Nigeria?

Emerging artists benefit immensely from experienced mentors who provide guidance, share insights, and offer practical advice. Mentors have navigated the art world, faced challenges, and can help emerging artists avoid pitfalls. The Harmattan workshop taking place in Agbara-Otor that is organized by the renowned Nigerian artist Professor Bruce Onobrakpeye does that. My Facebook platform (African Artists Worldwide) with over 3000 members is a platform where a lot of senior artists share their experiences for upcoming artists to learn.

How do you think the Nigerian art market compares to other African art markets, and what unique challenges and opportunities does it present?

The Nigerian market is vibrant and diverse and multifaceted. Nigerian art is strong, there are lots of rich creativity and competition. Nigeria’s economy, population and artistic output contribute significantly to the African art market. Lagos in particular, serves as a hub for creativity and artistic expression. Abuja is also booming with art activities. Nigerian artists like Bruce Onobrakpeya, Dotun Kpopola, Njideka Akunyili Crosby have gained international recognition and their success elevates Nigeria’s profile in the global art arena.

Can you share your experiences and insights on participating in art fairs and exhibitions in Nigeria and abroad?

If you are an artist and you are not engaging in Exhibitions you are missing out. Though it’s an expensive project but it’s worth it. In December 2023, I participated in the Sound out Premium Art Exhibition. A group exhibition organized in the Ghana museum of natural science. Towards the end of the exhibition, the First Lady of Ghana Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Adoo visited. She purchased one of my paintings titled “Odugbaye cultural festival”. I was invited to the state house (Jubilee Flag house) with other artists to have an audience with the First Lady and they took us on a tour around the Presidential villa.

What strategies do you use to stay inspired and motivated in your artistic practice, especially during challenging times?

Since 2017, I paint almost every day. Great music from legends like 2Pac and Fela Kuti inspires me a lot when I do my art. I love exploring new mediums, I enjoy playing with colours. Ancient African cultural heritage and global trends and my immediate environment are also sources of inspiration for me.

How do you leverage social media and digital marketing to promote your art and connect with collectors and patrons?

Most of the finest art deals I have made in recent times about the sales of my artworks are random strangers that contacted me via social media. Occasionally, I run paid adverts on Facebook and Instagram and this is the future of art business. If you are not advertising, you are not in business.

In what ways do you think the Nigerian art industry can foster greater inclusivity and diversity among artists and audiences?

The Nigerian art industry has immense potential to foster greater inclusivity and diversity among artists and audiences. Firstly, let’s start from the top. Key decisions and positions that will affect the artists should be given to experienced and professional artists. In the ministry for art and culture, almost all the directors don’t know much about art. There are lots of raw talents in Nigeria. I mean very good artists with world class standards. They have a lot to offer but there is serious hardship among the up-and-coming artists. The cost of art supply and cost of living is so high that most of them have given up their dreams of being artists and have chosen to look for menial jobs just to survive. The art galleries are also not helping matters. Today, it is almost impossible to see a gallery in Nigeria that will buy art and pay the artist instantly. Artists need the money instantly to buy art supplies and take care of their families.

Enough of the complaints, now solution: 1. Curators play a crucial role in shaping the art narrative, so having diverse curators can lead to more inclusive exhibitions.

  1. Developing accessible art education programs that reach underserved communities. These programs can empower aspiring artists and provide them with the necessary skills and knowledge.
  2. Establishing grants and fellowships specifically for artists from underrepresented backgrounds. Financial support can enable artists to focus on their practice without financial constraints. Creating affordable artist residencies that prioritize diversity. Residencies offer valuable time and space for artists to create and collaborate.
  3. Encouraging collaborations between artists from different backgrounds. Collaborative projects can lead to innovative and inclusive artworks.
  4. Finally artists, critics, and scholars can advocate for policy changes that promote diversity and equity. This includes advocating for fair representation in exhibitions, funding and leadership positions.

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