Art Takes a Stand at the Largest International Trade Fair in Africa

Omidiran Gbolade photographed in front of his art work, November 8, 2015. Photo/Author provided

The largest international trade show is held annually in Nigeria. Hundreds of companies travel from different provinces in Nigeria and different countries in Africa to exhibit at the Lagos International Trade Fair.

The fair is a multi-day event held in Tafawa Balewa Square. This event showcases products and offers a unique exposition for manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, and users of goods and services as well as opportunities for investment and trade promotion in the business services industry.

If one walks inside the Lagos International Trade Fair the last thing you would expect to see is an artist selling his uniquely crafted pieces.

The artist in question calls it a passion that developed from childhood, with encouragement from his father. In a societal climate that encourages growing boys and girls to become engineers, doctors, or architects mixed media art creator; Omidiran Gbolade is making it his business to be an artist.

Art by Omidiran Gbolade, Photo/Author provided

I met Gbolade and spoke with him about his personal connection to his art on a busy Sunday, November 8, 2015, where he had set up his stand beside a large international cellphone company stand to his left and a well constructed insulted and air-conditioned Diamond Bank “stand” to his right.

Gbolade received his B.A. and M.F.A from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Osun State. He was a lecturer of art at his alma mater and decided to leave his position and focus entirely on becoming an independent artist. He later opened a gallery called Omidaran Art Gallery in Ile-Ife, Osun State.

His work focuses entirely on depicting daily life in Nigeria. Women carrying water, homes with thatched roofs, walks along the river’s edge, in most cases all scenes from the village, far removed from the busy urban center of Lagos where he was choosing to sell his pieces.

Raised as the son of a professor and a homemaker, Gbolade originally wanted to become an architect in his early to late teens. “My father saw my art, and actually encouraged me to pursue my passion”, Gbolade said. He now considers himself a small town guy who has been able to focus on what he loves, which is his art, for the last 22 years.

He also makes it his mission to spread awareness about art throughout Nigeria and the African continent, which is why he felt it important to be at the international fair, despite having managed to sell his pieces to individuals in the United States, Europe, and West Africa, in Nigeria’s turbulent economic climate.

I asked Gbolade if he considers himself a great artist, or as Nigerians say, if he considers himself the “top guy”, his response, “it’s not for me to judge, if I am the top guy, I can only hope that people see the amount of love and work I put into my pieces and appreciate it”.