Muraina Oyelami

Described by many as a poetic painter with a romantic touch, Muraina Oyelami's works are a representation of his experiences, stories, folktales and landscapes. Known to some as a master painter and by others as a great performing artist, Oyelami is one of the original products of the famous Oshogbo Art Movement, whose works reflect composition and meaning. His varied and enormous list of credits include Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Staatlichen Kunsthalle, Berlin; Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London - to name a few.

 

Muraina Oyelami was born in Iragbiji, Nigeria in 1940.  Oyelami began his career as an artist in 1964 as one of the original products of the famous Oshogbo Art School initiated by Professor Ulli Beier and his wife Georgina Beier. He studied Technical Theatre specialising in Theatre Design at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where he later taught traditional music from 1975 to 1987. The idea behind the Oshogbo art experiment was to bring together young, creative people without formal art training and encourage them to paint from the heart. The experiment was such a success that today Oshogbo has become the centre of an art movement in Nigeria, with an ever-growing group of artists. Oyelami was one of the first set of Oshogbo artists. Prior to his career in art, Oyelami was a founding member of the late Duro Ladipo Theatre Company performing as an actor and musician. He toured with the group to the Berlin Festival of Art in 1964 and the first Commonwealth Arts Festival in the United Kingdom in 1965. Oyelami embraced the ideas of the Oshogbo experiment - creating art from his inner mind without the constraint of formal training - and became the most visible and most successful of the Oshogbo artists. Of his lack of formal training Oyelami says, "If we had gone to a university art school, we would not have been able to develop the inner eye so early. Too many things would have been imposed upon us and it might have taken us years to free ourselves from that education". Oyelami also composed and directed the music for Wole Soyinka's famous 'Death and the King's Horseman' at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, England.  The themes in Oyelami's work are mainly derived from Yoruba culture. The Yoruba people - their facial features and markings are a particular favourite. Oyelami's works also capture the ceremonies and festivals. Today, Oyelami is the chief of his village - a few miles outside Oshogbo. He still paints and has exhibited widely in Nigeria and in America.