Omodolapo Kola Balogun is a graduate of Kings College London with BA in Politics, Religion and Society and also the co-founder of Retro Africa co-owned by Abdullahi Umar, a young energetic artist and art collector. In the interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, they speak about their love for art and why they are interested in helping young artistes to showcase their talents and their upcoming event, Afroperspective.
Abdullahi: You were the initial brain of Recto Africa?
It started off as something I did for fun showing what Africa artists could do, as well as showing people that talents really exist. Where I come from its something I shared with my friends abroad and also my university. When I finally moved back to Abuja, I was missing the artistic field, the people that shared the same interest that I do. So I said why not just build it, educate people, get the interest going. Later we saw the picture and what it would become.
Omodolapo: Do you paint?
No. I’m not a painter, but I have a passion for art and for those who are able to translate ideas on the canvass, because I think that’s ability a lot of people under estimate. They don’t understand the amount of genus it requires to be able to create something, visualise something and for it to become a work of art. I admire that and in terms of art, we have literature, music, painting etc. and as far as visual art is concerned, I’m not but I do play guitar and write as well.
Abdullahi: For how long have you been into these?
I have been doing it for about 2-years, it took some time to really understand art work and how to push it as fun to create an atmosphere on how people can actually just be themselves and showcase what they really like and try to get people to see thing the way they do. It is not everyone that is open minded. So we try to push that, we don’t want people to sit down and tell us how things should be, we want to actually show them what can be, express possibilities.
Abdullahi: So how did you come about the name RetroAfrica?
Retro Africa to the general public means a style that is coming back from the past but we wanted to show different styles that resemble the past and are paving the way for the future because definitely in this environment we belong, our traditions plays a huge role of who we are and the influence artists create. I wanted that to always be at the back of our minds, to never forget where we are coming from and have it in mind that we are looking towards contemporary and new ways of doing things. We should never forget your experiences from the past and what shaped who you are.
Omodolapo: What are the reactions like since you started?
We did our first exhibition called Afro Modernism few weeks back from the 16th to the 18th of September here in Abuja. To be honest, I was quiet daunted at the idea of showcasing Art, keying into Art in Abuja because I felt that the Art wasn’t developed enough to really do justice to what we are trying to do. Basically the turnout was good and we had interest from the expert community and the local Nigeria community where people who had never even thought about contemporary Art and those just interested in seeing what was there developing a new passion and admiring the beauty of paint and photography. So it’s humbling to know that you are creating something different, you are actually shaping the Abuja art scene, which links us to the Logos Art which is already established. It has a lot of growth, galleries and Art shows. As far as Abuja is concerned, I believe that they are going to go up. But for now, I am very pleased with their reactions.
Omodolapo: Tell us about yourself and how you started off with Retro Africa?
My name is Omodolapo Kola Balogun. Am 22-years old and born 16th may 1994. I am a graduate from Kings College London, and have a BA in politics, religion and society. Retro Africa was actually set in a joint after I have industrially kind of been setup for few months. And i have joint like a year ago. I was interested in the idea of showcasing Art and exploring Africa talent. So when the idea was brought to me I thought it was interesting and it needed to be done in Nigeria.
Abdullahi: Where do you see Retro Africa in 2-years?
The growth we have had so far was actually amazing with the amount of things we have achieved and how we have managed to reach out to our fans and connections of our university days that actually established us. We have been able to approach people and educate them towards African art. We have partners in the UK now as well as Paris. We are working on collaborating with couple of friends in India. So the possibility to Retro Africa is endless and I still feel the Africa idea is yet to come. Africa Art is yet to be recognised compared to the European. The few that are recognised are hard to make it accessible to the average man, so we are yet to experience that but we are really hoping to be part of that for at least influence.
Omodolapo: So what’s your message for young and prospective artists especially those who don’t the opportunity to showcase their Art?
That’s what we are trying to focus about, the idea behind Retro Africa is to inspire hope in those who their Art is yet to be discovered, yet to be giving the value they deserve. I will tell anybody that feels that way to try and hold out. Art is something that is timeless, forever, not something that is just not appreciated or valued. If your work is not yet given the recognition that it deserves time will come when they will be the best.