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Rising To The Masters

This piece has been previously published in National Mirror, written by Uzezi Ekere

After twenty two years of being in the art industry, after lots of remarkable group exhibitions, one of the last hosted by the Embassy of Greece in Nigeria, Funsho Omojola, cannot be regarded as a road side artist.
Although he displays his works along the road and has come to be known by a lot of people through the exposure that being on the road side offers, Omojola is more than a class above those other artists who work and display by the road side, because he is the most exhibited artist you will find by a road side.
“You can’t call me a road side artist,” Funsho Omojola said. “One thing about art, since I knew art and learnt about art, I haven’t heard that you cannot display your works anywhere you want or can’t make your money anywhere. The real meaning of road side artists is those people who know absolutely nothing about art; that they are just doing whatever they like, copying and imitating other people’s work. I do my own work and I have proved myself. If I can be called to showcase my works alongside the president of Nigerian artists, to showcase with my lecturer and renowned artists, it means a lot to me. You can make your money anywhere and display your works anywhere as long as you are comfortable.”
Omojola is one of the most accessible artists in the country considering the fact that he chose to do his business of displaying works of art, along a very busy road, in Ikeja, Lagos state.
The painter, native of Ekiti state, has come a long way in the arts from his humbling beginning to stand side by side with those considered as the masters of the game, and in his own right, he too has become a master. If not, why else would he be featured in an exhibition tagged ‘Hellenic Images and Fifty Four Nigerian Masters’, and while else would other artists be tripping to his door, believing that he can help them to break through the doors into the mainstream of Nigerian art?
Omojola’s whole life has become his art which is the only thing that he does for a living, and what he is known for. In 2007 alone, he has featured in three group exhibitions, including one organized by the African Art Resources Centre, AARC, and is preparing for more that are coming up shortly.
“People come to me and I learn more through these interactions,” he said. “That is how I discovered myself. I didn’t have money to rent galleries, so I created a place in other to fend for myself. I thought of it, that if a collector can be making money in the field of arts, I’m an artist, why not make it my own business, so it worked for me. My style is different because I work through what I hear and see, then I put it in practice.”
Although in his own right a successful artist, he has no plans of abandoning displaying his works by the road, where he started from, to go take shelter in a roofed gallery. “I can’t leave this place,” he said with a smile. “This is where I discovered myself. Rather than me leave this place, I will use the place to let people know me more and use that opportunity to showcase other artists. There’s a building close by where I’ve already taken a place for my gallery that will open soon this year, but this place will continue to run because when people move around, they get attracted to what we showcase and they come. From here we can tell then about the gallery and they will come.”
As a painter, his works cut across various media. “I’m more into abstract but my style is changing now to basic designs. It’s a form where by colours are interwoven into one another.”
Omojola can be regarded as offering a huge service to the country, because not only one person has approached him on the grounds that they also do what he does, and most of the time, he shows them the way. But then, majority of then are usually after quick money in the art business. That apart, he is using the sight appeal to get people passing by, interested in art and the beauty in it.
“There are many talented people around, but because of their shyness, they just drift away somewhere and can’t work. They will be telling me that they are artists. Some of them even bring their works to me, but most of them do not believe in art as a work that can sustain them because they want fast money. Art shouldn’t be about money first, they can never get it right that way. I tell them.”