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Meet Emerging Nigerian Realists, Changing the Face of Art

By Udemma Chukwuma
Drawing by Obadiah 
Today, realism may be viewed as a major trend in the Nigerian art scene, and awakening to see young artists producing new type of realism that is not popular in Nigeria; drawing more art enthusiasts to recognise the names of these young artists.
Painting by Onoja

Indeed, the works of these artists, who are mostly in their twenties, depict everyday subjects and situations in contemporary settings in an attempt to portray individuals of all social classes in a similar manner. The uniqueness of these artists is that some of them are self-taught while others were groomed by a mentor.
Works of these young talented Nigerian realists began to surface on the social media since the hyper-realistic paintings of Oresegun Olumide took over the internet like a storm last year.
The list below shows the few names of the emerging Nigerian artists who are changing the face of realism in Nigeria.
Twenty-two years old Silas Onoja’s works are currently trending on the social media. He has been accused by many of painting like Olumide due to the similarity of their works. “But I don’ really care,” says the Abuja based artist, “I have a destination, people are quick to forget that we have different techniques and colours.”
Onoja’s rapt attention to detail turns his portraits of everyday subjects into brilliant, life-like works of art, showing off the artist's particular skill in painting. When asked if he was inspired by the works of Olumide? He says “I admire Olumide a lot because he is great. His paintings are highly exceptional, but I got inspired by Oswald Uruakpa’s and Clement Nwafor’s paintings.”
A drawing by Arinze 
Onoja says he is “not offended by what people are saying about his painting. What I am painting is what I like and what can be appreciated,” adding that he is not following “anybody’s footsteps.”
Arinze Stanley, is known for his hyper-realistic charcoal drawings, with almost seventy thousand followers on Instagram. His portrait work seems like photograph due to its near perfection and well detailed.
He creates works with extreme accuracy. This has gained him fame on the social media and the art circles. “I've been enthusiastic about creating my realistic drawings every since I was a kid,” says the self-taught artist, “everyday of my life became a journey in my training process.... I decided to take my art as a full time career in 2012.”
The Agricultural Engineer says he draws inspiration from everything around him such as personal experiences, thoughts, advices, expressions and anything that sparks a deep sense of meaningfulness to him.
“I do more of portraiture because it's basically the most flexible way for me to express my thoughts and my choice of models are usually in a way related to the meaning of the artworks I'm making as each individual is unique; I use people as a medium to speak through my paper,” he says.

A painting by Munza 
Dhlimi Munza painstakingly sketches get no less than two hundred likes on Facebook by his followers who the artist entertains with his artworks. The artist says he choose art as profession because he loves freedom, “and the liberty to express my emotions and experience life without being tied to some hard rules is the reason why I chose art.”
A painting by Peter
To him “art is the only (may be extreme) profession that makes one experience what it means to intuit and feel the nature of man and art makes me better appreciate the grace in drinking a glass of water.”
Munza has been around for a while, and has had a couple of shows, the last of which was a group exhibition of drawings at Omenka Gallery, Lagos, titled The Manuscript.
Olorunyemi Kolapo Obadiah is a self-taught artist and a full time studio artist. His work is about connections that human beings make, or don’t make, through language: a gesture, a look, an expression, physical placement, cultural values, standards, emotions, and desires.
Kingdiah, as he is also called, explores human communication, accept, constrain, “or reject these connections to form relationships is an evident theme throughout my work.” he captures expressions on people’s faces in his art.
Oil on canvas by Mohammed 
Raji Mohammed is highly talented and inspired by the works of great masters, happenings and moods of people around him. “I see art as an unending adventure that keeps one moving from one level of creativity to another.”
A piece by Ijeomah 
Onuoha Columbus is also well known for his thumb method painting. He says art is the expression of inner most in humanity which lasts longer than life and also a means to create legacy. In terms of his painting, he says “I love a realistic approach giving a distinct skills and touches to impress the eyes of humanity.”
Columbus says he is a faster painter who can complete a piece within five days and his “inspirations come from Almighty God, through dreams or while listening to good music.”
Izuchukwu Ilonze is a creative man whose art revolves in the orbit of human emotions and life experiences. “Colours speaks millions of words; truth we need to know about ourselves lies in our colours. To ascertain our personality colour, have a profound way to put us through.”
Oliver working in his studio
On why he does realism, Paul Ijeomah says if painting isn't done in the realistic style “then it's stays vague in the mind. Realism helps show how perfect the human can be in his attempt to create perfection out of the imperfect drops of colour.”
While art to him is more spiritual, he says that “it's like making the unseen become the seen. I see art as a unifying tool, it intrigues every human race that comes in eye contact and at that split second there is a unified emotion between all races that come in contact with art.
“Art is life. It exists in the very fragment of every human reality. Look closely you'll see that it's true. Nature itself is totally art. For instance, take a brief look at the rainbow. There's art in every bit of nature. Without nature there's no life, without life there is no nature. Without art there is no nature, without nature there's no life; therefore, without art there is no life.”
By Ilonze
Promise Peter is a hyper-realistic painter. “I love painting realism, I’m inspired by great realistic artists such as Mike Dargars, Fabiano Milani, Omar Ortiz and much more,” he says.
And for him, “art is a way of life. It's a movement and the feeling of being part of something greater than I can ever be is amazing. That's what art means to me.”
For Okolo Obiora Oliver however, art is the purpose of his existence, an unending adventure that unveils more fun and creativity.
A painting by Columbus
Oliver’s monochrome drawing is near perfection. “I feel comfortable looking at the world in black and white. I love the fact that I can only see in black and white. So most times I tend to visualise the world like a seal,” he explains
He further reveals that monochrome has uncomplicated the world for him.I don't actually prefer realism. I love all forms of art even the abstract. But I feel a little bit of realism can actually help depict the true form or texture of any subject am drawing.”
He has been drawing since his childhood. “I remember doing lots of comic books. Someday I could re-make them. But I became more serious with the art five years ago. I guess trying to imitate the true forms or texture of what I'm drawing according to how I see leads to that realism,” he opines.
His inspiration comes from children. “I love children a lot. In their eyes and ways, you can understand the world better. We can change the world if only we can become children again.”
Oliver is in love with his works and finds it hard to sell them.
The social media has paved ways for these artists to display their talents. With this accurate evolving movement; and the rising increase of realists, will realism take over the Nigerian art scene in the nearest future?

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