Morenike “Renike” Olusanya spends a lot of time with his iPad and stylus sketching interesting people and objects.
The Nigerian-born visual artist loves to portray black women in particular. “I’m in Nigeria. All I see is black women. I love portraying our culture, fashion and hairstyles,” she said.
Growing up in Lagos, the commercial center of Nigeria, Orsanya has always been artistic. “Drawing was normal for me when I was a kid,” she explained. “My father was an artist, so I watched his father paint. I also watched his brother paint.”
Orsanha, 28, studied creative arts at the University of Lagos and worked as a graphic designer before taking up visual arts as a full-time job during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
Morenike ‘Lenike’ Olsanya, Nigerian artist. credit: Morenicke Orsanya
bestselling book cover
Olusanya’s art exists in many forms, including portraiture, dance art, and book covers. Some of them are created on canvas, but she prefers to illustrate them digitally.
Combining shapes, lines, and shadows on your iPad to design book covers for notable women such as Aminata Touré, Germany’s first black female minister, award-winning American author Ko Booth, and Jamaican-American author Nicola Yoon Did.
In 2020, she drew the cover of Yoon’s book Instructions for Dancing, sketching black men and women dancing the tango.
“The book is about a woman named Evie who starts dancing. She meets a man who connects through dance,” the artist explained, adding that the cover took two months to complete.
According to Olusanya, drawing the cover was a “dream come true”, especially since it became a New York Times bestseller shortly after it was released in June 2021. ,” she added.
Orsanya’s cover of “Dance Instructions” by best-selling author Nicola Yoon. credit: Morenicke Orsanya
The power of storytelling
Many of Orsanya’s portraits share messages about what it’s like to be a black woman in today’s world.
“When I see a phrase, object, or person that I feel I can tell a story and do in an artwork or photo, I choose it,” she explained.
One of her works, Aminata, is an image of a black woman with short pink hair wearing a backless, sleeveless white dress. “Her hair color was inspired by her friend Chigozy,” Orsanha said. “At the time, I was insecure about all the fat on my back. It’s natural for a black woman like that to have fat on her body.”
“Aminta” from Orsania. credit: Morenicke Orsanya
Her dance portraits are even more personal. “It’s like a diary for me. I draw them based on what I’ve experienced,” she explained.
For example, “She will not be Silent” was made during a pandemic when incidents of violence against women increased. “This art is inspired by how a woman on her social media has lent her voice to support other women who have faced her targeted harassment,” she explained. .
“It was very heavy for me, but I wanted to create something powerful that showed that when women are being wronged, there are always other women willing to help,” she said. Told.
Orsanya’s “She will not be silent”. credit: Morenicke Orsanya
“People can relate to what I do.”
In 2021, Olusanya was included in Leading Ladies Africa’s list of 100 Most Inspiring Women in Nigeria and in 2022 was awarded the Lord’s Achievers Special Recognition Award: A Lady Making Impact Through Art.
“Winning this award was very encouraging to me. It emphasized that art is mine and that people can relate to what I do,” she said.
Olusanya is delighted to have her work recognized, but the highlight of her career has been being commissioned to create portraits for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Hulu, Dark & Lovely, Penguin Random House, and Scholastic. It is said that it is a thing.
Over the next few years, she hopes to continue creating and experimenting with art. “I would like to hold exhibitions in Lagos and other countries and continue collaborating with bigger brands,” she said.