Along with colleagues such as Ben Enwonwu and Bruce Onobrakpeya, Akinola Lasekan has come to be recognized as a pioneer of Nigerian Modernism. A student of Aina Onabulo, one of the most highly regarded figures of Nigerian Modern art, Lasekan began his career under the influence of his teacher’s naturalist style and preference for portraiture. Although Lasekan would continue to create mesmerizing portraits, such as Fulani, the artist would come to develop his own distinct style which was heavily influenced by Yoruba culture. The artist expanded his practice to include depictions of his surroundings, focusing on daily life in Nigeria.
Akinola Lasekan was a member of a rising group of Nigerian Modernists that exhibited a keen interest in Nigeria’s political future. Heavily engaged and highly critical of colonialist rule and the conservative elite, Lasekan aligned himself with the Nigerian Nationalist Party. The artist became the first political cartoonist in Nigeria.
Painted in 1959, just one year before Nigerian independence, this present work is a beautiful portrait of a Fulani man sporting a traditional Fula hat. The Fula people are known to be one of the largest and most widely spread ethnic groups across West Africa. The work’s date of creation coupled with the subject’s perplexed or angered expression and his sartorial affiliation to a noted West African indigenous group reinforces Lasekan’s alliance with the Nigerian Nationalist cause. Lasekan’s work is characterized by his keen attention to detail and elegant use of colour.
Due to his tremendous impact on subsequent generations of Nigerian artists, Lasekan is widely considered to be one of Nigeria’s more influential modernist teachers. Dedicated to educating young Nigerians, Lasekan published countless instructional books and established his own correspondence school for the arts.
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