Why Laolu Sebanjo’s collaboration with Nike matters

Nigerian visual artist Laolu Sebanjo just nailed the gig of a lifetime.

As part of mega athleisure brand, Nike’s annual Air Max day (a global convention held to celebrate the cultural impact of the brand’s Air Max sneakers, first offered on March 24, 1987,) Sebanjo has been chosen to serve as a Master of Air, a position which allows him to create custom versions of the sneakers that bear his signature style of art.

Sebanjo is the first African to become a Master of Air, a huge honor for an artist and musician who began his career in art in 2006, coining the term ‘Afromysterics’ to describe his unique brand of visual art. Afromysterics draws inspiration from chalk shrine drawings in South Western Nigeria that create stylistic interpretations of everyday life and religious practices. His work is similar to that of Nigerian artist, Victor Ehikhamenor who collaborated with Nigerian designer Ituen Basi on her insanely successful collection Ekemini.

Sebanjo joins this almost niche community of visual artists  who have collaborated with designers to create distinct collections. This collaboration will be incredibly profitable for him, exposing his art to a demographic he otherwise would never have reached while Nike gets to create one of a kind pieces.

Victor Ehikhamenor’s collaboration with Ituen Basi is the fashion brand’s most critically acclaimed collection to date and became so successful she had to discontinue production of the pieces from that collection so buyers could focus on her new work.

Lanre Da Silva Ajayi experimented with this too in her Spring 16 collection, drawing on the talents of Nigerian multi-disciplinary arts Nike Davies of the Nike Davies centre for arts and culture to create unique Adire prints for the label.

This actually begs the question; why haven’t we seen more artist/designer collaborations in the Nigerian fashion industry?

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