The Visiting Artists Program hosts Nigerian artist, Dayo Laoye

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Kylen Lunn | [email protected]

Dayo Laoye answers questions from the audience about his paintings and inspiration as an artist Sept. 9, 2021 in Morris Library in Carbondale Ill.

On September 9, 2021 in the Guyon Auditorium, The Visiting Artists Program, hosted world renowned Nigerian artist, Adedayo Laoye. 

Laoye was introduced by his longtime friend, Naijar Abdul-Musawwir, professor of drawing and painting at SIUC.

Laoye gave a lecture on his artwork to students and community members. Laoye discussed the divine influences in his art from the power of women, the African diaspora, and Yoruba culture.   

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Laoye was educated in both African and American academic institutions. Laoye attended the School of Fine Arts, at Yaba College of Technology in Nigeria, and at Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

At Howard University, Laoye became acquainted with African American contemporary art. In Laoye’s artwork, he makes distinct links between African and African American culture. Through his portrayal of Liberia, Hurricane Katrina, and historic moments such as the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Laoye depicts triumphant and tragic moments of the Black experience. 

From 2004 to 2012, Laoye worked on a series of paintings he called “Negritude.” He drew about 50 different models of African ancestry in hopes of showing the physical and cultural similarities between his subjects. 

“I used pastel on brown paper. I used brown paper because I heard of the unique story of the brown paper test in the African American culture of America, that if you are darker than the tan colored brown paper column, in some circles you wouldn’t be considered welcome within the black community,” Laoye said. 

Also in the Negritude series, Laoye created a series of work that amplified typical Black facial features using oil on canvas. 

“Now this is in 2010 I did a series of portraits, stylized portraits to emphasize some of the aspects of our features, our noses, our lips, and our skin tones, that people usually laugh at,” Laoye said. “I honor them and exaggerate some of them through these pieces.” 

Laoye said coming to America and attending Howard University changed his view of himself as an artist. His one year at Howard inspired him to look to his blackness and African for artistic inspiration. 

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“The poetry, the music, the visual art of the Harlem Renaissance, the influence of Africa and the influence of black culture is so strong in my work,” Laoye said. 

Laoye began to incorporate modern western influences with West African Yoruba culture in his artwork. 

Laoye displayed one of his paintings of three kings in Ile-Ife, the motherland of the Yoruba people. 

“The traditional crowns of Yoruba always have the all seeing eye of Eshu. Eshu is the keeper of communication between the living between humans and the creator, and so on our crown, you see the symbol but also the bird on top of the crown, represents the unseen power of women. Women play a very important role in our spirituality,” Laoye said. 

Laoye said he pays tribute to women in his artwork because of the important role they have played in his life and in humanity. Though his father did not want him to pursue art as a career Laoye said his mother and grandfather encouraged him to become an artist. 

“I lost my dad early at the age of 13. I was the eldest of five siblings. My mother was 38. She became a widow with five kids so the nurturing of my mother means a lot to me. The ability to stand right here in front of you to speak as an artist, I owe it to her and I owe to my grandfather,” Laoye said. 

Laoye said being an artist was not an easy journey.

“I have to prove it to my mother and to my late grandfather that for them to support me to allow me to do art and become a practicing artist was not in vain,” Laoye said. 

Staff reporter Oreoluwa Ojewuyi can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @odojewuyi.

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