Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Olaniyi AKINDIYA. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Hi Olaniyi, thanks for joining us today. One of our favorite things to hear about is stories around the nicest thing someone has done for someone else – what’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
Kindest someone or anyone had done for me is loving me unconditionally, believe in me and telling me the truth without care if it will hurt my feeling or not.
I was born in community that has limited opportunities, society which had been labels that nothing good will ever come out from their generation to generation but my life changes because I am driven with wisdom, smart, innovative and most of it all I have parents and family / communities of people who see bright future, have deep insight and ready to do anything to see that I am greater than them and they put their heads together to helping me , support me , scrod me , listen to my crazy ideas and be there to support, collaborate with me as I push those impossible thinking to be possible.
It’s impossible to mentioned all their names, because I have met many along the way and also I have met those who had negative towards me or my career but even with their attitudes negative it’s always give me strength to keep going. to see maybe I can swift them toward my way, see who I am beyond just see me as a body getting to know me.
Olaniyi, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My relationship with art begins when I was 3 or 4 living with my grand mum. I saw her extracting colors from leaves, back of trees, roots, boiling clay stones, using them to dye clothes and polish the floor because they live in a house built with clay, so it gathered dust.
After a few months, she polished the outside the house with this color extract and used this color to draw on the walls and clothes. But I never studied or learned art at elementary school as a kid. I never buy gifts for people; I create gifts with my hands in my childhood. Seeing my dad who is a car builder also is another inspiration for me. It helped me today in my creativity to build things with my hands as a graduate of biochemistry. Most of my works start as experimental with lots of stages.
Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya, also known as Akirash, is a Nigerian born artist whose passion for cultural interaction carries him around the world, but he currently calls Austin, Texas home. Akirash is an interdisciplinary artist working with various media like mixed media painting, video, installation, sculpture, textiles, performance, and photography. His works exist as moments, documenting his relationship with various places, cultures, and traditions that he has encountered in his travels.
In 2000, Akirash created ARTWITHAKIRASH, a nonprofit organization used to inspire creativity in the community of the Republic of Benin. By encouraging a creative relationship with public art, individuals learn more about each other and their own community. Ultimately, ARTIWTHAKIRASH has successfully removed women and children from the streets, opening opportunities for learning by going back to school and expanding employment is a way of him giving back to communities and thanks God for all is success.
I as a person believe no matter where I go, I cannot become that place but who I am, where I come from, so I love to remind myself with languages, proverbs, prose, traditions, colors, materials and incorporate them to what is going on now or where I am. The world has become small. The intermarriages and cultural diversity bring everyone together.
I was born in Mushin, which is at the center of Lagos state – Nigeria. I studied biochemistry as my first major degree. I worked in a pharmaceutical company for three years, then something happened. A colleague of mine in a laboratory was ill. Then I went to see how he was doing at the weekend. On getting there, he was okay, so it clears he will return to work on Monday. But Lagos weekends is always filled with ceremonies and many roads are always blocked, which creates lots of traffic, so he asked me which way am taking out of his area and said Oregun. He said no those ways will be blocked now, so he was kind to get into my Vehicle and lead me to another road. This road leads me to how I find an art school. And we went into the school campus that was around 10 am on that Saturday morning. He left me around 11am, I stayed, I could not leave, I moved from one department to another, I asked questions about enrolling, who to talk to. Everything about the office is closed. So, I was in school till 10 pm. I left; I went home wrote a letter of absence to the company I works with that I will not come inn on Monday. I went to the ART INSTITUTE OF TEXTILE TECHNOLOGY ART & DESIGN on that following Monday morning, September 1993. In short, that is how I left my work and returned to art school. But let me say, I was good in drawing, sculpting before as from my kids, but never sat in a class to study Art.
After Graduate in 1995, I worked in Nigeria Textile Mills, designing clothes, then I was not satisfied, I could not get enough freedom of creating as I wanted, then I left the company in 1997. Then embarked on Hunting for more knowledge, exposure, so I travel to Republic of Benin in 1998, there I saw a gathering of artists at a popular roundabout, then I crossed the road ask what is going on, one of the artists said the program is call Artists in Residency programs, it comprises of different artists from Africa, Europe, Asia, US. This is the first time I heard about artists residency program, and I asked questions more, remember there is no internet at that time. So, I started finding more from those artists. I made friends with them then collected their mailing addresses, phone numbers. I contacted, wrote them, this is how I started to apply to residencies programs and I start to travelling around the world that lead to more exposure, more competition till the present day.
We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road? It has never been a smooth road, especially if you don’t get supports from home, you live in societies that have no idea what you are talking about, there is no books to read, no place to do researches, no exhibitions, residencies, Biennales, and no internets. But if you want to change things, you have to be the change. You have to be very sure, confident. You need to be patient, you will have to be ready to risk everything, even your life. You need to be born again and ready to be the black sheep. With this, I was able to shade light on art in my communities, the city I was born and mostly my parents.
But everything that is smooth always had a rough road, and in this world, we lived, people don’t celebrate failure but success. Those that succeeds would have falls many times. But when you don’t give up and you will one day celebrate all your hard works with sweetness.
I am an interdisciplinary artist. My work focuses on time, fleeting moments that can be easily forgotten or transformed. Reflecting on rural versus urban life, the accelerated pace of development and infrastructure, performative activities play around Trauma & social subjectivities like identity, immigration, gun violence, race, history, religion components that break down conventional barriers. In exploring the invisible systems of power that govern everyday existence, I utilize a multitude of techniques and materials, including repurposed objects, which may manifest in mixed media painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, sound, performance.
My work is about the journeys of everyday life. I tell stories that address issues that affect us all around the world or those that are at the forefront in the society in which I find myself. I try to expand the presentation of the artworks to educate and engage a larger audience by creating an immersive experience that explores the ideas at hand in multiple ways. My works start with a lot of reading, research, asking questions, traveling to where the topic or occurrence issues I want to work on happened. My work is inspired by the tradition of weaving clothes/fabrics from Yoruba’s Tribe – Nigeria (ASO OKE), which is weaved through loom. So I cut varieties of colors papers into abstract figures and set them in motifs, patterns, designs that become messages of communications, and I was also known to enjoy incorporates Vintage/repurposed materials that go along topics I am addressing.
Olaniyi is a recipient of 2021 ARTPRIZE Installation Artist Honorary Mentioned, Grand. MI, Contemporary Black Art Award. Grand Rapids MI, TEMPO 21 City of Austin, Red bull Arts, CERF+ 2020, Foundation for contemporary arts emergency grants 2021, 2020 & 2019, The Otis & Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant Award From DMA 2019, TEMPO 19 City of Austin 2019, E 51st Art in public space 2019, CORE Funding 2018, the Innovative Artist Award from the Mid America Artist Alliance (MAAA / NEA) for 2017, Pollock Krasner Foundation Award 2016/17 & 2011, Cultural Initiative & Capacity Building Grant, Culture Alive from the city of Austin 2016/17, the Santo Foundation grant 2015, and the Commonwealth Connection Award UK 2011.
Throughout his career, the role of residencies and interactions with other artists has been pivotal to his work. Olaniyi has been awarded residencies in the USA Residency at Crosstown Art 2018, Residency Fellowship at International Studio and Curatorial Program NY 2016/17, Oklahoma State University Museum of Art 2015, University of Texas in Austin 2015, Santa Fe Art Institute Residency Award 2015, Mass gallery (Hot box Residency in Austin TX 2014, Centraltrak UTDallas 2013, Residency at Triangle Art Association New York 2012, residency at the Vytlacil of Art Students League New York, Residency Fellowship at Vermont studio Center 2011, Fellowship Residency at Bluesky Project Woodstock – Chicago 2008, artists in Residency at Artcroft Kentucky.
Internationally, Olaniyi has been awarded residencies Pro Helvetica in South Africa , TADA residency in Switzerland 2022, Art at the Heart Award 2016 & 17 in Western Australia, Sacatar Instituto Fellowship Residency Brazil 2015, Kiosko Gallery Residency in Bolivia 2014, Fellowship Residency at John Muafangejo Art Center Namibia 2013, Fellowship Residency at Nafasi Art Space Tanzania 2012, Tupelo / Bag Factory Residency South Africa 2012, Nirox Projects Space Residency Johannesburg- South Africa 2012, Residency at Gladstone Gallery Toronto – Canada 2011, Centre for contemporary Art Residency Lagos- Nigeria 2010, Thami Mnyele Foundation Amsterdam-The Netherlands 2010, and Sansa Triangle International Residency in Kumasi – Ghana 2009.
Olaniyi’s work was exhibited at the 12th edition of Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar- Senegal 2016. He also participated in Chale Wote Street Festival Accra – Ghana 2013, International Multimedia Festival Yagon-Myanmar 2012, infecting the City Street Festival Cape Town – South Africa 2012, and the East Africa Biennale (ESTAFAB), Dar Sallam – Tanzania 2005 & 2007.
His works and writing have been featured in several publications including 100 sculptor of tomorrow, Aesthetica Magazine (Issue 80), Important World Artists Vol 1, Hidden Treasure Art Magazine UK, Virtual Residency 2006/2007 Germany, Freedom to Create Prize 2009, ART EDUCATION (The journal of the national art education association Vol 68, No. 6) Studio Visit Magazine Vol 26 & Vol 34, Critical Interventions (Journal of African Art History & Visual Culture. NOV 11). Spring 2013, Reechantments (The City in the Blue Daylight) Dak’Art 12thEdition 2016.
What I will say set me apart is my ability to hold my audience for minutes, to connect with them, to remind them about something that they have used, they have come across, something they have hear about, something that remind them of their history and so this glue them to the works, connect them to the reason why they attend the show the they have no other topics to talk about but my works on display. This is all I envision when I am working in my studio and that is what I strike to give and always give.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
I was born in community that has noting, no development, learning under the trees, no library to find book to read, health’s of people around me are worst every day, day by day you see death from various virus, as kids you wake up thinking you see your friends but you find out they are dead, Hospital are miles of miles , seeing the death of pregnant women, the roads are bad, no transportation , you will have to walk miles to get to next village or town, your formular for food is 0-0-1 or 0-1-0 or many time 0-0-0. But with all these issues in the community we few kids wake up and take our destiny into our hand by fight, push beyond boundary and start to use everything we hear on the radio about developed countries around the world become our library and stepping stone to wake up and dream big .
In short Hunger can be the instrument for innovation, creative thinking, strength, endurance, focus, better yourself as a tool to get what you want. Doing things without money by using recycle – repurposed materials which become what provide me success. These is my story, it has shape me till today.
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
You cannot call yourself an artist unless you are throne the title. Aspect of been an artist to me are Research, questioning, Tolerance, Courage, focus, Challenging, vigilant, collaborations, respect, Affection, confident traveling, and believe that we are the light, gateway, the border between chaos and order, contribute to the community we find ourselves. How we reached out to our neighbor/s that need us, how we use all the resources we are giving as gift to better these worlds we are part of. How I was able to plant trees that become fruits that many eat out of it. How I was able to dig wells, and many go there to get water to drink. How I use my knowledge to help the next generation to be greater than the present world we are now. Then if I can be part of these lights then I can call myself an artist and it’s important to earn that title than to think you are.
- Website: https://www.artwithakirash.com/
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/artwithakirash/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artwithakirash/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/artwithakirash-studio-3301b119/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/akirash1
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/artrule
ArtWithAkirash Studio LLC