Sunday, August 21, 2011

Toyin Alade: The Visualist of Pan African Cultural Symbolism

Toyin Alade: The Visualist of Pan African Cultural Symbolism

If you have never seen Toyin Alade's paintings, then you have not seen some of the best works of contemporary African Art.

I have known Toyin Alade (TA) for over 20 years as one of the best and most gifted fine artists in Africa.

He belongs to the famous Abayomi Barber School founded by his mentor and teacher Abayomi Barber in 1973 and located on the campus of the University of Lagos for many years. Abayomi Barber School is famous for their naturalism as exhibited in the drawings and paintings of the celebrated members Muri Adejimi, Olu Spencer, Busari Agbolade, Kent Ideh, Bunmi Lasaki, and Bayo Akinwole, who are contemporaries of TA.

I have had the honour of being exhibited with Muri Adejimi by Mrs. Simidele Ogunsanya before she opened her popular Mydrim Gallery. That was even before I discovered TA's art in his studio at his residence in Bariga near the Lagos lagoon. I was instantly thrilled by his fantastic oil paintings of Yoruba mythology and life. He also has a great collection of books on the great masters Rafael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and other icons of The Renaissance and Modern Art such as my role model in art Pablo Picasso and TA’s favourite Salvador Dalí.

The naturalism of the Abayomi Barber school can be compared to that of the Flemish School as depicted in the oil paintings of Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hiernoymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Vermeer who were masters influenced by Renaissance Art. One of TA’s painting "The Search" inspired me to compose a poem that has been published in a journal without my consent.

TA has had many solo and group exhibitions and his paintings are collector’s items in both private and public art galleries in Nigeria and other countries.

TA’s genius is a combination of Renaissance Art and classical Ife Art with some modern influences of Salvador Dali and his own intellectual flights of imagination. My Roman Catholic background and my father’s metaphysics of Ifá and Eastern mysticism have made me to understand his Art and decided to publish a book on his art and spirit.

The most notable Nigerian collectors Yemisi Shyllon, Sammy Olagbaju and Simidele Ogunsanya have some of the best artworks of TA.

You can view a selection of his drawings and paintings on his online gallery on

~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, one of the most published and internationally exhibited Nigerian illustrators since 1983 and also a prize winning writer, author of four books, prolific blogger and TV/film producer who is the founder of the annual Eko International Film Festival and CEO of International Digital Post Network Limited.

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