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I now paint and teach cultural & creative art in Nigeria's federal capital but the story would have been different were it not for my cousin

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15 May 2022
10 minutes read
I now paint and teach cultural & creative art in Nigeria's federal capital but the story would have been different were it not for my cousin

My name is Yemi Adeyemo Oladipo.

I am a prince from Lapopo Compound in Awe in Afijio Local Government of  Oyo State, but born and bred in Lagos in 1969 to Chief Samuel Adeleke Oladipo, the Bada of Awe, and Alhaja Sikirat Oladipo. My mum, a devout Muslim till her death, hailed from Abeokuta, Ogun State. My dad, also late, was a Christian, just as I am. I am a deacon/elder of Living Faith Church.

I attended Ijero Baptist Primary School, Ebute Metta West and Jubril Martins Memorial Grammar School, Iponri.  While in secondary school, I was so good in fine art but because many parents then would rather their children became doctors or lawyers, I aspired to be a medical doctor. I would say that I was, by the grace of God, also brilliant. 

In pursuit of being a doctor, when I was in Form Three, going to Form Four, I dropped fine art and focused on physics, chemistry, biology and additional mathematics; what we used to call PHYCHEMBA. It was a thing of pride to be one of those with such a combination of subjects.

I had good school certificate results in these subjects as well.

Years ago, before you could get admission to read medicine at the University of Lagos (Unilag), you had to score three hundred and twenty points in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Two years in a row, I did not meet the cut-off mark, even as I read, read and read to prepare.

Meanwhile, my cousin, Adefemi Idowu Johnson Adeyinka, who had completed two years in fine art at The Polytechnic Ibadan came on holiday to Lagos. He knew I was a 'good fine artist,' as he put it, and said we should visit the National Arts Gallery at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu. There, I saw great art works by the masters. The one I still remember was the painting by Abayomi Barber of President Shehu Shagari wearing white babanriga and a black pair of shoes.

I also saw a wonderful painting of the dramatist, Hubert Ogunde, with a George wrapper tied around his waist and cowries on his head.

Seeing those paintings by the masters, I could not stop saying Wow. Wow. Wow.

Then I felt the art in me, that I had had buried because of science, jumping out. I started feeling that if people could produce such masterpieces then I could too.

I was captivated.

So, I told my cousin that I was ready to go back to fine art. 

I then asked him which was the best school on the discipline.

He said it was best to go to a polytechnic because one would be exposed to all the practical aspects, while in the university it would be more of theory till one got to the third year for specialisation.

I asked him which was the best polytechnic for the teaching of fine art.

Yaba College of Technology, he said.

Following his advice, I entered for a GCE O' Level examination in fine art, economics, government, biology and English Language.

I cleared it and got admitted into Yaba College of Technology in 1989.

That was how my fine art journey started. 

My time in Yabatech was interesting.

I was good in ceramics and textiles. 

My dad believed that I had already derailed. 

Because he was not paying my school fees, I had to become a house painter to sponsor my education, although the fees were not that prohibitive. The folk in our neighbourhood knew that I was studying fine art but they did not necessarily know what it entailed. As far as they were concerned, I was an artist, so I should be able to paint a house. I started one weekend by painting a room. I came from the hostel where I lived to do the job. Constantly, I was having jobs because one person told the other about me. But then I was not charging them what other painters from outside the area charged, so they preferred me to do the job for them.

That was how I scaled through until my final OND year when one day my dad came into my room and saw one painting I did and he was marvelled that I could produce such a work. 

We later had an exhibition at Yabatech organised by our rector then, Mrs Felicia Abimbola Odugbesan, a wonderful woman in love with art. I made good money from selling my works and my dad was surprised that one could make money from art. 

I was the best graduating student in our OND set (1989-1991)

After my OND, I interned for one year with a prolific painter and master, Abiodun Olaku. I was with him even before I got my admission into Yabatech. He helped to improve my skills and I never needed to be painting people's houses again to earn money.

I did not even have the time as I graduated into painting on canvas and began to sell more of my paintings.

Thereafter, I went for my Higher National Diploma, still at Yabatech. I still had guidance from Mr Olaku until I could stand on my own. 

I continued selling my works throughout my HND and made good money to be in one of the best hostels on campus. People came from outside to buy our works, for framing on the mediums of their choice.

I was posted to Rivers State for the one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. I had promised myself that wherever I was posted I would go. It was an opportunity for an adventure as well as being away from my parents for sometime.

For my primary assignment, I was posted to the Ministry of Art and Culture, and I lived at 64 Nwogu Street, DLine. 

Between 1995 and 1997 I was at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH)  in Ogbomoso, Oyo State, for a full time master's programme in fine art. I did it here because as an Oyo State citizen, the stress was less and it was an opportunity to get away from Lagos for a while. Distance was the only reason I did not choose the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria.

While in Ogbomoso, I continued to send my works to Lagos for sale. I also became involved in landscape painting. I would go to Awe, which is not quite far from Ogbomoso, take pictures of landscapes and I painted them. The folk in Awe were also happy that one of their own was an artist. I did the portrait of our traditional ruler, Oba Cornelius Alaba Taiwo. 

In 1997, I was employed as a teacher in the fine art department of the Bayelsa State College of Arts and Science (BAYCAS). Bayelsa State had, the previous year, been carved out of Rivers State. At BAYCAS, I taught painting to Year One students. I was there for about three to four years.

In January 2003, I satisfied my urge to move to Abuja, Nigeria's federal capital. 

I had a friend, Eman Dandaura, who was then teaching theatre art at the University of Abuja  - he is now a professor but now at Nasarawa State University - but there was no fine art department at UniAbuja, so I sought employment with the FCT College of Education Zuba.

I tried in vain to obtain a letter of introduction from a state or federal legislator which was one of their criteria for employment, apart from competence.

I decided to set up my studio practice at Wuse II, beside El-Amin International School. 

I was interviewed for a teaching position at El- Amin but their secondary school was at Minna, Niger State. I was not prepared to go to Minna. Hajia Salimat Sanni who was the headteacher at the primary school persuaded me to hold on as her big sister was about starting a new secondary school at Karu, named Prime Scholars School.

She left El -Amin in 2003 and became the director of Prime Scholars till date.

In September 2003, I also became one of the pioneer teachers at Prime Scholars. I let them know that I would like to continue with my studio practice while teaching. So, I was engaged to teach fine art twice a week. It has since been changed to cultural and creative art. Soon, I added another private school, Christabel, in Wuye, teaching once a week. I soon added another school, Oasis International School, Kado Estate.  In 2008, I also taught part-time at Dominion School in Jabi and in 2017, I started teaching at Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Zone 7. But it is Prime Scholars that I still have an association with; if we are counting, that is about eighteen years.

I got married in 2005. My wife's name is Yemisi and we are blessed with a boy (Toluwani) and a girl (Tofunmi).

You can pay me a visit at my studio at Graceland Garden, Wuse Mabushi Expressway, immediately after Zone 4 Bridge, and I can be reached via +234 803 344 0055.

Appreciations to Mr Sam Amuka, publisher of Vanguard Newspapers for logistics support. 

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