Bidemi Tata
Self-Potrait of Bidemi.

Art Saves Everyone: Bidemi Tata


Bidemi Tata is one of the minds I’ve always found intriguing since I stumbled on his work via twitter (the gathering place of culture shakers in Africa and almost every young society around the world). I had to converse with him, sharing his mind was not only inspiring for me but I felt it will beautiful for everyone. So many people are doing things you could only dream of years ago in Africa and it’s important we document and support their journey by being the platform they share their art and thoughts through.

The new age seems like an odd sphere moving around Africa’s underground but it’s live and real, it consists of creatives, dreamers and pioneers like Bidemi doing what they love, breaking the rules and creating theirs in the process.

They identify break every mould restricting them, being the best version of themselves regardless of the conformity their environment brings. As a journalist I want to expose these minds to the world continuously, I want to share the gift of New Age Africa with everyone.

Art has played an intriguing role in every generation that’s ever been on earth, and it’s playing a vital role in Africa right now. Being one of the rawest/very expressive for a form of creativity known to man it’s only natural the new generation calls on its form as a tool of pushing their ideas, diversity and story to the audience. What’s more exciting is the new love and understanding of the arts in Africa, once not fully recognized for its beauty and knowledge art is finally getting its rightful place in our society. With shows like Afrikulture and ArtX helping to showcase artist of all forms, to various mediums like InstagramTwitter and tools like Photoshop the art is being shared with the world to study, a showcase of what’s really going on in Africa, what our future holds. Art is important to the history of our generation, it records and highlights points, breaks society norms while creating an open place our skins, ethos and ideals to be free. It also creates an escape for those trapped in the one life scenario being African serves to you, soon it will help shape a new future for everyone.

Here’s my discussion with Bidemi :

Unorthodox art expression seems to be your speciality, take us into your art world?

Bidemi Tata: It’s just who I think I am as a person, my life has always been surrounded by weirdness and obscurity, and I think it rubbed off on my art style. Back when I was little and we had those fine art classes, I always got poor marks because my teacher thought my figures were poorly drawn and It pissed me off a lot; It felt unfair to call art ugly. art is expressive, it shouldn’t have a pattern. I always try to make “ugliness” appealing, whether it’s an eye or a lip or finger, I always attempted to make it grotesque or exaggerated. The usual is boring, is what I always say. I wouldn’t say my drawings are beautiful or well drawn, but, it’s appreciated and I think I’m winning. It’s like welcoming you to the dark part of art.

Has art changed you as a person?

Bidemi Tata: Yes, definitely. It’s made me more aware. I find myself now spending days looking for tools, muses to tap into. I’m more conscious about subjects and let them influence my art. I’ve used my illustrations to fight away depression and fears. I can tell you now that I’m more confident. I’ve found a way to express myself in a beautiful way. I’m having fun with this and I found my safe place.


Bidemi Tata
Bidemi Tata

Why do you use your art to showcase social issues and the popular culture around you?

Bidemi Tata: Sometimes. I’ve used my illustrations to dispose of the idea that a person has to look suicidal to be suicidal. You can never really know what’s going on. Sadness and loneliness sometimes do not have physical revelations, that’s what I’m all about. Just be nice. I’m heavily wrapped up in the world’s popular culture than I like to admit and I sometimes make references in my illustrations. Music, movies, art. I’m always present for the trends. It’s never a consistent occurrence, but, I do dabble with it sometimes.

Limiting? I don’t believe creativity is limited honestly. Captivating art is captivating, The world is so connected in many ways even though it won’t admit it. I like to believe my illustrations are relatable to anyone and everyone.

How did art become your tool of expression?

Bidemi Tata: I had always been secluded, I hardly spoke unless it was necessary and my lack of a voice made me isolated in my own thoughts. And I had incredible thoughts as a kid that watched too many horror films and cartoons. I don’t remember when I started drawing, but, I remember the first thing I drew was an eye, I have always been sensitive about my eyes because one looks smaller than the other and my peers always pointed it out to me. I began to draw eyes, the best eyes I could, eyes I wished I had. I perfected drawing eyes and it kicked off from there. I would draw everything I felt, everything I was inspired by. Anything I’d been watching or listening to. The concept of my drawings would depend on my mood; If I was sad, the character I drew would most likely have bleeding eyes or would be dying. If I was happy, I would try my best to draw a funny looking character; Something to incite happiness and warmth. I have never been the kind of person interested in the relationship of shapes, colours or similars And I never fail to make that point in my illustrations.


Bidemi Tata
Bidemi Tata

Is it limiting being an African creative?

Bidemi Tata: Limiting? I don’t believe creativity is limited honestly. Captivating art is captivating, The world is so connected in many ways even though it won’t admit it. I like to believe my illustrations are relatable to anyone and everyone. Different people from different areas of earth can look at it and appreciate it all in the same way. I don’t think only a certain type of people can enjoy my work. No, I don’t believe it’s limiting being African. and a creative; I appreciate a lot of artist’s work that isn’t particularly from Africa, I don’t think it’s limiting for them being from other geographical regions.

My art is heavily influenced by music and how it made me feel

What’s the uniqueness of being an African artist?

Bidemi Tata: We are more traditional than most, I must say. African art is both dark and resplendent, I think that’s one trait you can’t find anywhere else. It’s more down to the roots, never losing its culture, staying true to shapes and lines. African art romanticises the idea of the female importance, there’s a feeling of female empowerment in most African art exhibitions I’ve been to, there’s always that feeling. It’s enjoyable and you are almost always tempted to take one home with you. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and witness other great African artists, with each their own fantastic style. I haven’t met a bad one yet.

How do you challenge conformity by using art as a tool?

Bidemi Tata: Growing up, I was thought to believe an artist is a “poor” man’s occupation, I can’t deny I believed it. The artists I always saw were thin looking men, who have hung paintings outside their studios for years, they always had beautiful paintings of celebrities or fairly popular people that people admired but never bothered themselves to really dive into; it had no emotion, I resented that art, because, that was what was expected of every artist. My real battle against conformity really began during my secondary years, when people really frowned on my drawings and called it ugly or scary, I refused to draw how people expected me to draw. I would draw portraits for people and they would usually comment, “why did you make me so ugly?”, “ this is not how I look”. I’d ignore it. The popular perception of fine art was what I was trying to break, everything doesn’t have to be a detailed work to be beautiful. I define myself as an artist interested only in expressing ignored human emotions such as doom, tragedy, ecstasy and so on. The society I found myself in expected illustrations only representing the norm: Happiness, joy, light, glory and all that. It’s satisfying to see a lot of African artists taking on their own roads now, the freedom is here now and it’s cool.

What’s the art scene around you?

Bidemi Tata: My inspiration comes from different areas: sometimes after listening to a song, or a movie or from cartoons; My art is heavily influenced by music and how it made me feel. I am a fan of every creative and I always look out for the works of popular artists, Liz Lomax, Jody hewgill, And so on. These illustrators stimulate me to grow and improve my skills. I became acquitted with digital art through them and the first thought that came to my mind was, “I could never draw like that”. But then I gradually perfected drawing eyes again with Photoshop, then illustrator. Still, I’ve only begun to walk the path of an illustrator and I still have much to learn. Thanks to the internet I’ve gotten to know many interesting people and designers from all over the world, I’ve recently found myself dabbling with a lot of French illustrators, it’s all beautiful how art connects. In the end, those communities have helped define me as an artist.

Our generation is beaming and black culture is the pride of the world, what’s your take?

Bidemi Tata: Yeah right, we are beaming. I think blackness has always been hip, right from the time of crip-walk and Afros. We are more aware now, I think. The world is taking notes now, they can’t deny the greatness anymore. The black youth is finally looking between the lines and we are taking more risks, no ones trying to play safe anymore, we are questioning society and doing not what they expect, but, what we expect from ourselves and that’s how it should be- freedom, expression, satisfaction. We are freer, art is more appreciated now, especially In Nigeria, more people are getting involved, more people are investing and it’s great, feels great knowing we might actually be appreciated this time, it’s a beacon of hope, people can express themselves now without feeling chains on their necks and it’s great that our generation is the spearhead, we are opening doors that didn’t have keys before and hopefully, all these will leads somewhere great. Everyone’s talking about Africa, we are finally getting our credit, even if it’s not in its entirety, but, we are heading somewhere.

Abstract or conceptual art?

Bidemi Tata: I’m a bit of both sides, but, I’m more abstract than conceptual, to be frank. The purpose of art was once to create beauty and to imitate nature, today the concept has evolved dynamically and is constantly changing. Simple colour matchings don’t cut it anymore, there is a bit of surprise and unpredictability in abstract works. Like fashion, music, movies and every other subject, the idea of the usual has become mundane and cliché. Don’t get me wrong though, conceptual art still has it’s relevance, there are a lot of artists going in that route and their works are beautiful and also captivating. But I’m more of a fan of the abstract and extensive.

How honest must art be to be art?

Bidemi Tata: Honestly, I don’t think it has to be. A creative is someone with a beautiful mind, I like to say the idea is better than the skill. An artist doesn’t necessarily have to be sad to make gloomy pieces. Art is expressive no doubt, but, an artwork doesn’t always have to be a clear reflection of the artist’s mind, it’s still captivating art, It still makes the audience feel a thing. It’s still art, regardless of how honest the artist is.

You write also, how does that come together with your art?

Bidemi Tata: I am very imaginative so illustrating, writing, photography and video editing, it all bodes well, to be honest. I have the advantage I think, I have an expansive mind. I just recently made writing a serious hobby of mine and it’s going well, I get good compliments and good numbers. I sometimes take writing as an opportunity to showcase my art, I compliment my writings with illustrations; I’m all about imagery. to confess, I hardly enjoy pieces without images or illustrations. It’s all fun, I have fun with it.

How do you overcome your depression practically?

Bidemi Tata: I like to think everyone gets depressed, some find it easier to deal with it, some don’t. With Love, video games, music, movies, writing and so on people find their ways of subsiding it. I used to feel undervalued and alone, back in boarding school far away from home, from friends and family. in another state or country and my way of beating the sadness was drawing and writing these little notes beside my drawings, notes of how I feel and promising myself it will be better soon. I would show friends my drawings and it made me feel better when they smiled and gave my drawings compliments and called other kids to come see, it made me feel valued for the time and I didn’t really feel alone anymore.

What are you planning for yourself going ahead?

Bidemi Tata: I haven’t really put much thought into it, I’ve been riding this wave of life. Going forward as long as the road’s there. It’s been a good year for me and I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied, but, I know there’s more to come.

Adedayo Laketu

Adedayo Laketu is a creative inventor who's interested in curating a New Age for Africa across all mediums.


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