It is up for debate whether graffiti is art or vandalism. In fact, people who practice these kinds of arts are very creative and use emotional and mental imagery, such as visual, auditory, social, etc., to express themselves.
One of these talented artists, Morenike “Renike” Olusanya, 28, draws inspiration from black women. She spends a lot of her time exploring the art world sketching the people and things she finds interesting with her iPad and touch pen.
The Nigerian-born visual artist adores painting Black women in particular.
“I’m in Nigeria; Black women are all I see. I love to paint our culture, our fashion and our hairstyles,” she said.
Olusanya has always been creative, having been raised in Lagos, the commercial hub of Nigeria.
“Drawing was a normal thing for me to do as a child. My dad was an artist for a short period, so I saw him draw. I saw my older brother draw too.”
Olusanya went to the University of Lagos to study creative arts and worked as a graphic designer before deciding to work full-time in the visual arts during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
Portraits, dance art, and book covers are just a few examples of Olusanya’s works of art. She prefers to illustrate digitally, but some of them are created on canvas.
She has created book covers for notable women, such as Aminata Touré, Germany’s first Black female minister, award-winning American author Coe Booth, and Jamaican-American author Nicola Yoon, by combining shapes, lines, and shadows on her iPad.
She sketched a Black man and a woman dancing tango for the cover of Yoon’s book “Instructions for Dancing” in 2020.
“Evie, a woman, takes up dancing in the book. The artist elaborated, noting that the cover took her two months to complete. “She meets a man she connects with through dance,” she said.
Olusanya says that drawing the cover was a “dream come true,” especially since it became a New York Times best-seller right away after it came out in June 2021. She continued, “I can say with pride that I have designed book covers for multiple bestsellers.”
A message about what it’s like to be a Black woman in today’s society is conveyed in many of Olusanya’s portraits.
She explained, “If I see a phrase, thing or person that I feel tells a story and can be executed into an artwork or picture, I go for it”
“Renike” Olusanya once felt insecure about the amount of fat on her back. She therefore created that portrait. It was how she came to accept herself. It was also a way to demonstrate that Black women, like her, naturally have fat on their bodies. Her dance portraits, it’s interesting, are even more intimate.
She uses art as a journal; and she draws them in response to what she’s going through.
“She will not be Silent,” for instance, was made during the pandemic when more women were the victims of violence. She explained,
“The inspiration for the art came from women on social media lending their voices to support other women who had experienced targeted harassment.”
“It was very heavy for me, but I wanted to create something powerful, something that shows that when a woman is being treated unfairly, there will always be other women trying to help out,” she said.
Olusanya was named one of Nigeria’s 100 Most Influential Women by Leading Ladies Africa in 2021, and in 2022, she received the Lord’s Achievers Special Recognition Award: A Woman Using Her Art to Make an Impact.
She claims that receiving portrait commissions for some of the world’s largest brands, such as Hulu, Dark & Lovely, Penguin Random House, and Scholastic, has been the highlight of her career.
She just wants to keep making art and trying new things for the next couple of years. She stated, “I want to continue collaborating with bigger brands, hosting exhibitions in Lagos and other countries”