In the past, Nigerian artists (or African artists) in general could not dream of entering art galleries abroad and being gifted with Black faces they could relate with. If they did see Black faces, they most likely were just depictions of our ancestors as slaves, not something that glorified Blacks. The inferiority complex of Africans ran so deep that even African artists found themselves drawing faces devoid of melanin – white faces.

Over the years, however, so many artists have emerged with one intent – the need to glorify African art and put it on the world map. BABAJIDE OLATUNJI is a Nigerian artist with a similar vision. His art is influenced by contemporary Yoruba history, myths and culture. He hopes to be able to walk into any gallery in the world someday and be gifted with melanin rich faces that he can relate to.

The artwork above shows a Black woman with a red scarf tied on her head. Her face is adorned with tribal marks, and her eyes seem devoid of emotions. It touches on the historical significance of tribal marks in Yoruba History – tribal marks were once adored and revered. The introduction of civilization and subjugation of culture has now caused them to lose importance.

Babajide Olatunji is a Nigerian artist of the Yoruba tribe. His origin has served as the inspiration for his Tribal Mark Series which he has been working on for about five years now, with over 95 portraits in the series. You can find him on Instagram @babajideolatunji.


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