How Nigerian youths are re-defining the status quo

With brands like Guinness promoting and celebrating passion and creativity, the sky is only the starting point for every art practitioner in Nigeria.

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Bright, vivid colours are evident on arrival at the Kia Showroom, venue of the 7th Element Exhibition by foremost Nigerian graffiti artiste, Osa Okunkpolor put together alongside A2 Creative.

Parked in a corner of the showroom is a Kia Cerato salon car completely covered in graffiti art which the mostly young, upwardly mobile guests reach out to feel as they stride by.

Not a lot of exhibitions permit guests to interact so closely with works on display, but from the smiling ushers who have their faces painted in the all-new Guinness Africa Special drinkcolours, it's clear that this is no run-of-the-mill exhibition.

The 7th Element is youthful, passion-driven, unconventional, and most significantly a precursor of the graffiti movement in Nigeria as exhibiting artist, Okunkpolor admits during a chat at the event.

Above all, however, the exhibition is a celebration of passion and dedication to craft.

Having always had an interest in art, Okunkpolor dabbled into graffiti art as an undergraduate at the University of Benin "just for jokes". In 2013, several years after graduation and a few 9-5 jobs later, Okunkpolor would do the unthinkable in Nigeria by quitting a safe, steady paying job, to pursue his passion for art.

Okunkpolor took up graffiti art full time, seeking opportunities to use his craft as a means for brands to communicate with their clients. A few years after, he got invited to work on the nationwide activation campaign for the recently launched Guinness liquor brand, Guinness Africa Special, a drink inspired by need to cater to young creative and energetic Africans.

The drink, made with natural herbs and spices sourced from African soil also had young African behind the think-up of its branding which makes it a truly, ‘made by us’ product from the stable of the iconic beer brand, Guinness Nigeria

The campaign would see him create art for the billboard designs of the Guinness Africa Special drink, which is the first drink made by Guinness in 10 years. Also on the heel of the campaign, he went on a tour across all the major cities in Nigeria spray painting live art on stage.

Indeed, Osa's story is not unlike several other young Nigerians who are shunning convention to pursue their passion.

Over the last few years, the youths in Nigeria and indeed Africa have sprung up to take up their own, making credible marks across different fields, prominently fashion, arts and dance.

Good thing is that the world is fast recognising the power of young creative Africans who are daring to chart their path and so is Guinness, taking the plunge to make a beer brand, Guinness Africa Special, that caters to the taste and active lifestyle of a typical young African.

The new product was launched in 2015 at carnival like parties held in Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Benin, Lagos and Ibadan with exciting elements such as instant T-shirt station, UV face and body painting, graffiti inspired branding, 3D mapping and music from popular acts, all of which combined to create an amazing consumer engagement experience.

The brand did not stop at that but also released, a few months after, its very exciting dance-led television commercial which soon became a sensation on the digital space with many putting up short videos of themselves dancing and showing how they #MoveWithSpecial.

Asked why the brand places so much importance on the youths, the Guinness Portfolio Marketing Manager, Liz Ashdown said, at the event,

She continued on how Guinness has allowed consumers express their creativity while still relating with the brand,

From spray painting for fun with friends in the University of Benin to participating in a major advertising campaign for one of the most successful brands in Nigeria, Okunkpolor's story is truly the stuff dreams are made of.

With more creative people like him carving their own path, and brands like Guinness Africa Special throwing their weight behind them, its safe to say that the youth truly own tomorrow.

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