For Nigerian visual artist and musician Laolu Sebanjo, all he wanted as a kid was happiness and growing up to become someone relevant to the society. While he thought he would grow up to draw comics for Marvel and DC, he ended up at Nike. The American sportswear company has selected him as a Master of Air which will see him create art-inspired Air Max at the Air Max Con 2016.
Laolu has one thing working for him, Afromysterics, his style of art developed over the years. Most of the things he draws has a lot to do with African themes and African traditions, hence the name, “Afromysterics” which he coined around 2006 – 2007. It simply means “the mystery of the African thought pattern.”The same style informed Nike’s decision to make him a Master of Air and he will weave stories through lines and patterns at Air Max Con NYC, drawing inspiration from his Yoruba heritage and global travels. Laolu will be creating art, incorporating his love for Air Max (Air Max 90 is his favourite), New York City, and sports.
Reacting to the news of his selection by Nike, Laolu said: “I’m making my dreams a reality. This is my ayanmo (a Yoruba word for ‘destiny’). Create your destiny. Let me be your inspiration. Just do it!”
Although he bagged a degree in Law at Nigeria’s University of Ilorin, it has always been art first for him. Today, he uses his knowledge in law to ensure his copyrights and intellectual property are protected. But art has always been the priority.
Laolu once said he was the type of child to see faces in the random patterns on the terrazzo tiles in the courtyard and bathroom. “The patterns in kampala and Ankara used to really fascinate me,” he told a Nigerian blog in 2012.
He started his art with charcoal. He says this was because charcoal is one of the oldest art materials. “Prehistoric man used charcoal to create cave art, we can still see some of it today,” he says.
From his first exhibition in December 2009 at the Elephant House, Ikeja, Lagos where he did not sell a single work of art, until now, Laolu Sebanjo has gone a long way.
From March 24 to March 26, Laolu’s work will highlight his African roots as the world celebrates Nike’s popular Air Max brand.
The convention Air Max Day was introduced by Nike in 2014. It was created to celebrate the history of Air Max, which stretches back to March 24, 1987.
Called “the ultimate Air Max experience,” Air Max Con will pay tribute to an icon, along with the sneaker design, heritage and innovation that has shaped the culture of the streets today.
Nike says attendees will be able to “step into the shoes of a designer, meet the Masters of Air, and share experience with the sneaker community.”
It would be great to see what Laolu does with the Air Max. But beyond the event, Laolu’s art will keep making Africa proud as he continues to use his work to make people recognize the potential of art to be used to transmit ideas, messages and concepts.
The talented Nigerian artist, who also sings and plays the guitar, says he is always ready to work with “anyone interested in harnessing the ability of art to communicate ideas and abstract concepts in an aesthetically pleasing way”.