‘Osa Seven’ Okunkpolor’s work ranges from portraits of iconic characters to scenic images, brand designs, abstract art, and tribal art designs that appeal to the human emotions. Osa tends to doodle on anything he can lay his hands on, as his wandering pen is constantly itching to tell a story.
He featured recently on CNN African Voices where he discussed amongst other things his passion for telling stories using contemporary art.
Osa is a visual communications graduate from the University of Lagos. His background, working in brand communications and his eye for detail, allows him to effectively bring brand ideas to life through digital design, and physical brand activations. He has worked with different street art media, and major brands including, Globacom, MTV Base, Diageo, Chicken Republic, Live Mechanic, and Empire Mates Entertainment. Some of his popular work includes a live graffiti art performance on the MTV Base Guinness #MADEOFBLACK campaign and the award-winning Superstar album art for Wizkid.
Osa is a Co-founder of the ‘7th Element Project’ which aims to help artists in Nigeria publicize, commercialize and monetize their work.
Together with A2 Creative and other artists in Lagos, he co-founded the ‘Art For A Cause‘ movement. An initiative geared towards injecting creativity into learning spaces for kids. Their first stop was Ijero Baptist School, and National Primary School in Lagos.
“We visited a couple of schools and we saw the walls were plain and dirty,” he says. “We decided to go to these schools, engage the kids and paint educative artworks on the walls which in turn creates some kind of subconscious and awareness in them.”
Osa is passionate about giving back to the society, and thus engages in social outreach, and NGO activities across Nigeria. He uses his art to promote social causes and raise awareness on society. He also spoke to Yvonne Onyinye, The Guardian. Excerpts…
When did your love for the arts emerge?
When I was a kid, I would get lost in drawing pictures from my imagination, and I enjoyed telling stories through my art. I was a bit of a shy kid, and art was my way of expressing my mind.
How did you learn graffiti?
I’m actually a self-taught artist. I learned graffiti through watching YouTube tutorials and reading graffiti resource websites.
What does graffiti mean to you? Retribution or freedom?
Freedom! It’s an expression of my thoughts, desires, and emotions. It is also my way of encouraging people through positive messaging.
Graffiti in other parts of the world has a negative reputation. How has it become so appealing even for corporate brands here in Nigeria?
I would say direction and value. Graffiti is said to be radical, but I believe that you can be radical in a positive way. It is also an engaging form of advertising and can be used to create marketing value for clients through consumer interactivity.
Your art is unique and authentic. How do you stay inspired?
I am continuously learning. I spend time researching on art styles and make an effort to create and recreate.
The Eko Tag took us through a reality where graffiti and street art became widely accepted and seen as attractive/engaging. What was that project like for you?
The project was challenging, in the sense that it’s the largest wall I’ve ever worked on alone, and the feedback was amazing. I viewed it as an opportunity to tell our local stories to a global audience, and I am happy to have been the artist to bring it to life.
You run the initiative, Art For A Cause, tell us more about it?
Art For A Cause is a project that I run through our foundation called Socially Africa. Every two months, we visit a school and paint educational artwork on their walls. We have executed the project in 11 schools within the past one year. At the moment, the project is self-funded, and we are open to collaborating with individuals and corporate entities that would like to give back through our platforms.
A lot of young people look up to you now. Have you considered helping talented youth and kids hone their artistic skills?
As much as I love to learn, I also love to teach. I set up an art platform called Kuma Nation where we share resources, and showcase other artists. We have hosted three exhibitions curating other artists work. In addition to this, I also share a lot of knowledge via my social media and host web live sessions where I teach.
What awful thing have you tasted that you have promised to never taste again?
Caviar (fish eggs), I know it’s considered luxury food, but it doesn’t taste as nice as it looks.