Olumodeji Dimimu weaves woolen portraits pregnant with meaning

The Nigerian artist, Olumodeji Dimimu, believes that an artist should break the norm and follow unconventional paths—a mindset that has stayed with him from childhood. His dogma emphasises the importance of interpretable artwork. “While multitudes can be awestruck by the beauty of your creativity, it is more attractive when they can decipher the meaning behind the art.” He therefore makes a habit of using poems and songs to communicate the deeper meanings behind his works.

Olumodeji specialises in pencil and wool art. He is an undergraduate student of Microbiology at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta and he hails from Kogi, Nigeria. He has always been fascinated by colours. As a young boy, he had the habit of making drawings on paper and glueing them on the walls of his room.

He remembers winning the heart of the invigilator at his JSCE Fine Arts practical exam when, while his peers did the usual poster colouring, painting, collage, printmaking, sculpting, and repeated pattern drawings, he decided to stand out by using wool in making an atypical mosaic design that was never taught at his school. His work was selected as the best overall.

His environment growing up fueled his interest in art. At his parent’s home where he grew up, there was an enchanting 4-foot-tall oil portrait of his grandfather hanging on the wall of the sitting room. His elementary school was an artistic world too, boasting a flourishing art and craft club and hosting a well-curated art exhibition.

Olumodeji believes he hasn’t arrived yet, and that the entire universe still needs to behold and feel more of his creativity. He speaks with me about his journey into fully embracing his art, the setbacks on the road to growth, the uniqueness of his art, and future expectations.

Earlier, you said you had picked up the craft right from when you were a little boy. Does this imply you are a born-talented artist?

No. I wasn’t born a talented artist. I won’t underrate the relevance of self-development and learning in my journey so far. Still, I was privileged to be raised in an environment that appreciated art, thus exposing me to art. I was able to channel my childhood creativity into art and craft.

How did your creative journey into becoming a pencil and wool artist begin?

It started in the wake of 2020, during the lockdown. Before that, I was good at drawing, but I was terrible when it came to drawing human faces. It was my worst nightmare, so I usually avoided it.

On a fateful day during the lockdown period, I came across someone’s artwork on WhatsApp. It was a drawing of a woman and her baby. I kept wondering how she did it; I couldn’t control my curiosity. At that moment, I downloaded a book online on how to draw a human portrait, picked up a pencil, A4-sized paper, and started pencil drawing.

My first piece was crap. I could not summon the courage to document it. My second piece was crap too. I had gone to extremes in drawing a friend and giving her the piece. The reply I got from her shattered me, but I didn’t allow myself to get discouraged by that. Instead, I channelled the hurt into becoming better by being consistent and working hard.

As I journeyed along the path of pencil drawing, I got the urge to introduce colour into my work in early 2022. I remembered how I used to do wool art for fun. I took it seriously this time, and it birthed my first wool portrait, “New School Queen.”

Now, permit me to say, the road to growth and development has been a bumpy one. Getting better at what I was doing wasn’t an easy feat. It took a lot of determination, reading, practice, criticism, constructive and destructive mentoring, and most importantly, patience.

The road to growth was rough, although I’m still walking it. One funny thing most people don’t know about artists is that we read more like we are taking courses. I do, and I’m still reading, watching videos online, and investing time and money to gather resources and materials just to improve.

The New School Queen, Olumodeji Dimimu

What were your most significant challenges, and how have you overcome them?

At the beginning, my biggest challenges were fear and a lack of confidence. I was scared at first when I discovered that there were only a few wool artists out there. As for pencil art, people drop it along the line because of the time it takes to craft one. The last pencil art I did took me two weeks to finish. I almost dropped wool art because of the low representation, but I know I’m not one to go with the norm. I’m Dimzzyreal, a shade of uniqueness, and it doesn’t matter if the majority won’t accept me. Today, people love my art. I hear people’s mind-blowing comments and inspiring comments, and I’m glad I stuck to my craft. 

I was able to fight my initial lack of confidence by getting a mentor who was constructive with his criticism. Once I finish an artwork, I send it to him for review so that before my work is released to the public, I already know my errors. This has prevented me from repeating mistakes and further boosted my confidence. Plus, I keep telling myself that I will get it right, albeit not in a day. One of my favourite mantras is “No matter how great the talent is, it still needs time.

What makes your art unique?

You see, my work is just like a poem, open to various interpretations by the viewers but having a specific interpretation by the artist. My work is unique because it tells stories. Not just a single story. In other words, the volume of my work reflects exclusivity. This is why I always complement my work with a short poem or song that will both portray the art better and help pass the intended message across.

Every piece of art portrays the most profound emotions and the desired concept of an artist. What is the underlying message that your work passes across to the audience?

The message I pass through my art varies, but specifically, I use art to express my state of mind. You can’t see into my mind, but I will give you a hint about what is going on in my mind through the expressions of my art. Additionally, I am a gender-focused artist. I use the female muse because I see women as God’s artistic expression. Women are effortlessly attractive, and I relate this to my work.

Blooming Whispers, Olumodeji Dimimu

What are your future expectations?

There are so many surprises to be unwrapped. The world awaits my shine, and I feel the universe is in harmony with my dreams.

First, I want to go into art once I complete my first degree, regardless of people’s conception that most Nigerian artists are broke. I still want to explore the magic of art. I’m passionate about art and creating. I find bliss when creating a piece, the indescribable kind. Moreover, I have role models in my field that are doing well. People appreciate the best, so I believe when you do something well, people see the efforts of a job well done and appreciate it more.

I’m looking forward to my largest exhibition across all the museums in the world. I also hope to own the biggest and largest art gallery in Lagos.

Lastly, I look forward to connecting to millions of artistic networks at home and abroad. I hope my collections spread across the world and beyond, creating unification while I simultaneously become an artist others can look up to.

Afro Intimacy Tapestry, Olumodeji Dimimu
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