My artistic expressions totally immersed in African culture, heritage — Olubukola Bolarinde

Olubukola Bolarinde is the definition of a polymath. She is a business professional, head of a department at one of the world’s leading telecommunications companies, an art connoisseur and self-taught artist, the CEO of Yellow Dot Limited, a curatorial/production company creative, a writer, among other things. Naturally drawn to art in all its forms of expression, she will unveil her entire exhibition, curated over more than two years, at a private exhibition on June 10 in Nigeria and later in Venice, Italy. during this year. She said ROTIMI IGE his story and his passion for telling African stories through paintings.

TELL US about yourself and your journey.

I am an indigenous Nigerian from Ekiti State, Okemesi-Ekiti, the home of Fabunmi, the propagator of the Kiriji war. My mother is from Ibadan, Oyo State and both my parents grew up in Ibadan. I am therefore an entirely Yoruba woman, firmly rooted in the southwest. All my influences are Ekiti and Oyo State. However, while I was born in Lagos, my formative years, from the age of 11, after my primary education, I went to the North. I went to secondary school in Jos and stayed there for six years. From Jos I went to Kaduna for a pre-diploma course. I then spent another year in Zaria, where ABU is located. This is where I received the training that prepared me for my career in architecture and land planning.

I was immersed in northern culture and speak two indigenous languages, Hausa and Yoruba.

From the North I went straight to England where I studied architecture at the Welsh School of Architecture. There I had my B.Sc Hons and then I had my Masters in Environmental Design and Engineering at the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL). This is where I finished my graduate studies.

I returned to Nigeria and started practicing as an architect with a firm called James Cubitt Architects here in Lagos and was with them for four years. While I was there, I was seconded to Standard Chartered Bank, and that started my foray into banking and my understanding of the banking framework. I worked there as a project manager, setting up branches from start to finish and designing for the bank in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

I then returned to the oil and gas industry and was employed by Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, a downstream industry leader in AGO diesel trading. The owner of Zenon was looking to divest himself of all his income and profits in real estate, which is where I came in. I first joined as a property manager, then the portfolio grew significantly and it had to be created into a wholly owned subsidiary called FO Properties Ltd. I was appointed general manager of this company.

From there, telecommunications came to call. I worked with Ericsson and came full circle. When I was done with Zenon, I was no longer looking for work. I just wanted to consult for people. I was offering Ericsson locations for a new office in Nigeria at the time, and they made me a job offer I couldn’t refuse. It has been satisfactory so far, and my responsibilities extend beyond Nigeria to Sub-Saharan Africa, 53 countries. I am also now the property manager for West Africa, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, the interior to Cameroon, and in the North, the Niger and Morocco, and now Burkina Faso and in the South Angola and Botswana.

With all your accomplishments, where does the art come in?

There is a creative side, which has always been part of me. It’s innate. I got into architecture school in England, just because of my art portfolio; I have never taken any exams, A levels or prequalification, I was asked to send in an art portfolio and I did exactly that and was admitted. It proved to me that there was something about me that needed to be taken seriously.

How did you discover your abilities as an artist?

I always knew I had a talent for drawing in pencil or pen on paper. I had never tried other mediums like oil and acrylic on canvas. In 2012, I decided to dig deep and bring out this talent. I started painting in 2012, but not commercially. Only personal collectors who know I paint and have commissioned me and have been in contact with me in the art space.

How was it, diving into the art space?

I’ve done other things in the creative industry under my platform, Yellow Dot Limited. I am a writer and a filmmaker, but above all, I am a storyteller, and any channel of expression that I draw on is to tell a story.

What is this story?

The story of our culture, our people and our land. When you look at my works, everything is an African story. There is a story in each of them. All of my background and influences merge in my art and translate into my pieces.

Why did you decide to hold your exhibition now?

The essence of me is to be a storyteller through any channel I choose. Art is a means of expression and there are many stories to tell. Many things have happened in our experience, in our childhood, that we have experienced and that our children do not experience. Things like art, history, film and photography are ways of preserving that history. I see photographs from earlier times that make me realize that if it had never been preserved, I could never transport myself there. That’s why I do what I do. It’s my first solo exhibition and it’s labeled ‘106 Expressions’.

What gave the title 106 expressions?

The date of the event is June 10 (the sixth month). My birthday is very important to me and I have always celebrated my birthday. I don’t even work that day because it’s a time for me to reflect, thank God and enjoy the day. Also, there will be 106 exhibits at the exhibition. There would be 85 pieces of visual art with different media; oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas among others and they would be exhibited in a conventional style.

I also went through transforming my art into original and exclusive fabric. My target audience for this is the fashion industry. I’m partnering with two fashion designers for 10 pieces each in two collections. It is wearable art and would constitute the fashion segment of the exhibition. That is a total of 105 pieces. The 106th exhibition is the event itself, which I curated from start to finish.

To be a creative, anyway to be able to break down the barriers and limits of conventions, that’s what I usually and naturally look for. This is an event that has never happened in Nigeria.

Where is the exhibition held?

My natural habitat as an architect is a construction site, an unfinished building, and I put together an exhibit and build it from scratch on a construction site. I bring people to the site and immerse them in an experience that didn’t exist before. This experience is the 106th exhibition and the venue is at Eko Atlantic. The exhibition space is a maze and once you start you have to see all the artwork. At the end of the maze, you pass into a true formal theater-style seating area, where the fashion pieces then parade.

What is the central message of the exhibition, or what kind of stories would we live?

My art transports you to places, times, people and cultures. You will see lots of African faces and people in African outfits. For example, you see a lady in a jalabia, all wrapped up. Immediately, it is distinct in the North. You see a Durbar man on a horse and you are transported there. You see the Eyo with the kings and you know you are in the south.

How long did it take you to create these 85 pieces?

I have been working on the collection for two years, since 2020.


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