Tuesday 14 November 2023

Celebrating Black History Month with Olagoke's art in UK, Mauritius

Poet and rapper, Stretch, during the live painting by Lanre Olagoke (background).

FROM the U.K to Mauritius, artist Lanre Olagoke's brushstrokes of art activism celebrated the Black History Month of October 2023. Ahead of his live painting session at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, U.K., in the first week of October, Olagoke visited Mauritius for community projects, in celebration of the British Black History Month.

Returning to his London base, Olagoke, had a live painting session depicting a famous ninteenth century black circus artist, Miss La La, who was originally painted in 1879, by French impressionist, Edgar Degas.  Olagoke, who is the founder of a charity organization Art Alive, joined presenters  Dr Bonnie Greer, and Prof Olivette Otele at the National Gallery event inspired by Degas’ 'Miss La La of the Cirque Fernando' fame. The event strengthed Olagoke's interest in black History and tourism as he has been involved a proposed-museum project dedicated to women of African descents to be built in Oyo town, Nigeria.

Greer, the author of a related book inspired by Miss La La noted that Olagoke's "turbulent" as well as his Nigerian ancestry coupled with his British upbringing always forms thematic consideration in his art. Greer, a strong follower of Olagoke's art said the artist's  "tales of deprivation," are parts of his artistic strength. "But within that reality, his black paintings tell me about artists' understandings," Greer shared her experience with the audience during Olagoke's live painting.  "I see a master artistic intelligence , bringin together his ancestry home of Nigeria and literally home, where he was born in London." Greer, a former board member at British Museum authored  Miss La La's Hanging By Her Teeth, a book that was dedicated to the life of the late black circus artiste.  

As parts of his itinerant for the Black History Month, Olagoke was in Mauritius, in October for a workshop/community project with disadvantaged youths. He disclosed that the workshop involved his talk with 100 students of African Leaders University (ALU). In sharing his experience from the community project. he recalled that "Mauritius is a very familiar country to me since I started taking Art Alive activities on tour some years ago."

Back to the famous circus artiste, Miss La La, who was celebrated at the National Gallery, her bio says she was known for many stunts, among which included being pulled up to the height of the circus tent by bitting down on the rope with her teeth. During the event, Olagoke's art activism and philanthropic approach to creative was evidenced in Stretch (rapper and poet), who did poetry to spice the event. As Olagoke depicted Miss La La inside Room 44 of the National Gallery where works of modern masters were on display, Stretch's poetry performance added poetic energy. Stretch is one of Olagoke’s Mentees from Art Alive empowerment project.

As the Miss La La event event extended Olagoke's passion for black history subjects, he noted that her lifetime  meant different things as "she can be who you want her to be, even though her real name was Anna." Olagoke captured  the circus artiste in his style abstraction style with pseudo-figurative texture. "It was a honour painting live before an audience, particularly at such a revered institution as the British National Museum," Olagoke enthused. The painting, he said, depicted "a woman who was also fighter, against all odds and excelled as a black circus artiste of repute."

Also read: Separating Yoruba religious tradition from Isese

Translucent S.I. Media management agency for artists and art galleries

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