Using Graffiti To Affect Lives Positively
Osa ‘Seven’ Okunpolor studied visual communications at the University of Lagos. An urban graffiti artist, he uses the medium to express his passion for telling stories. Okunpolor is also a design consultant and brand developer who manages a custom clothing design label called ‘CSTMZRS’. He was also the first Nigerian artist to work with a global brand to create an identity for their product and the first non-traditional artist to be nominated in the Arts and Culture category for the Future Awards in 2016. He recently completed a mural in Victoria Island, as part of the 50 officially commissioned monuments to celebrate Lagos, her history and visual arts.
When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. As a child, I spent much time drawing and painting while other children enjoyed playing football and racing. I carried a notepad around and would sit in the corner doodling and sketching. Art was my way of expressing my creativity, and sketching my dreams.
What inspired your choice of graffiti as a medium of expression?
I have always been a bit of a disruptive artist, though in a good way. Graffiti is my choice because it is such a powerful medium to send positive messages across to the public. Though I am a well-rounded artist, I believe in focusing on my strengths. There is something about handling spray cans and paint that motivates me.
When you get a design brief, what is the first thing you do?
When I receive a design brief, I listen carefully to my clients to understand the heart of their idea/story. I then take the time to develop sample sketches for them to ensure they align with their vision before we bring the idea to life. I say ‘we’ because I make sure my clients are a part of the creative process from start to finish. It is important to me that they are carried along and feel that the final artwork is just as much theirs as it is mine.
Osa working at the Shift Solution office space in Sri Lanka
How did you get the ‘Eko Tag’ Lagos at 50 graffiti project, can you also tell us about your inspiration for the artwork and the experience working at the site?
‘Eko Tag’ is a monument that was commissioned by the Lagos State Government under Governor Ambode’s administration. I was commissioned to work on a 90-foot mural on the wall of Lagos Law School, which is located on Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue in Victoria Island. My team and I named the artwork ‘Eko Tag’ and created a media platform to showcase the various monuments in Lagos, to allow us tell our local stories to a global audience. The platform has since grown quickly to become a favourite online.
The ‘Eko Tag’ artwork is a story within a story to remind us as a people never to forget our heritage and the great moments that shaped Lagos. Using a modern style of art, ‘Eko Tag’ creates a platform where the old does not only intersect with the new but also provides base narratives from which the future will emerge. The very colourful pattern is descriptive of Lagos as a thriving city. The National Theatre and Ori se meta (Three Wise Chiefs) are very popular elements of Lagos state. It has been a humbling experience having an opportunity to make history.
Osa with children from the Ijero Baptist school at the Eko Tag site
You were featured in the Microsoft global campaign for the Special Olympics athletes this year. You also featured on CNN African Voices in 2016. What were the experiences like?
I must say that these features were purely by the grace of God. I work hard and have an amazing team that supports my brand. However, I also realise that some things are predestined and come to me because they are meant to be.
The CNN African Voices was an amazing experience. My parents were excited to see me featured. It was a proud moment that they happily shared with their friends. I was also honoured to be representing the many non-traditional artists that do not often get acknowledged. The Microsoft Global Campaign was definitely a historic moment as there were only 2 Africans featured including me. It was aired globally and also made it to the screens in Times Square, New York. It was wonderful working with Marvellous Adewopo who taught me so much. He is deaf and dumb, quite talented and a great human being. He is also the captain of the Floor hockey team for the Special Olympics, which took place in March this year in Austria, and they won the gold medal! I am thankful for the opportunity.
Osa ‘Seven’ Okunpolor and Marvellous Adewopo in the Microsoft Special Olympics Campaign billboard at Times Square, New York City
How did Socially Africa, Art For A Cause and 7th Element come about and what have been the experiences so far?
My co-founders and I started Socially Africa as a platform to engage in community development while encouraging other people to cultivate the habit of giving. With the platform, we have several initiatives like Code Classes For Teens, Outreaches, Food Drives, Knowledge Sharing, and Gifting. Art For A Cause is one of our initiatives through which we visit public schools and paint educational artwork on the walls, as well as spend time with the children. We chose public schools and children because we believe we can influence and impact their lives positively. The experience has been great thus far and we have executed 6 Editions of Art For A Cause across 7 schools. We are looking to expand this year to be able to do more across Nigeria.
Adaora a volunteer and co-founder at Socially Africa and Art For A Cause with some girls and their works
You had a graffiti exhibition in Lagos in May 2016, supported by KIA and Guinness. How did this come about?
My first exhibition tagged 7th Element was the first graffiti exhibition ever in Nigeria. The show was born out of our studio at A2 Creative. We are a team of dedicated creative professionals who disrupt industries and spaces with innovation. 7th Element was launched and has now transitioned to Kuma Nation. This is a platform to promote urban artists and provide opportunities to share resources, inspiration, and collaborate on projects.
Osa ‘Seven’ in the KIA Motors showroom with his art works during the exhibition
You have participated in several live art shows, which is the most memorable?
My most memorable live art show was my performance last year at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. It drew the Nigerian president and a cross section of dignitaries. I performed alongside my teammate and gifted violinist, Godwin Strings. We held the audience captive with an amazing audio-visual experience.
Osa ‘Seven’ at a live art session
Image Credits: Osa Seven and Eko Tag
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