Is the world's richest artist using his privilege to manipulate us?

Laolu Senbanjo breaks silence, says Hirst is "appropriating, copying and trying to erase and re-write who created this style of art."

Thanks to Victor Ehikhamenor who raised an alarm a few days ago at Venice where the exhibition is being held by posting an image of Hirst's exhibit which he titled "Golden heads (female)" on his Instagram page which was reposted by Laolu Senbanjo a few hours after Ehikhamenor posted it.

Pulse team reached out to Nigerian artist, Senbanjo, on his thought towards all this and here's what he had to say.

What do you think about artists who appropriate African art and sculpting as their own without acknowledging their source of inspiration?

"I think what Damien Hirst did is beyond appropriation.  He flat out stole and copied the Ori Olokun exactly and gave a racist anthropologist’s disparaging view of the Yoruba people and passed it off as his own.  This is unacceptable.  said that we deserve to have our art stolen because we are feeble minded degenerates who are not capable of appreciating it."

"What right did he have to our art?  What right does Damien Hirst have to replicate it and pass it off as his own and not even explain it’s deep culture significance that it has?  As an African artist, I work tirelessly to spread our culture and do what I can to get a seat at the table but when people like Damien do what they do it continues to oppress us."

Do you think there is a need for us as Nigerians to showcase and celebrate our art and culture more?

"I consider myself a keeper of the Yoruba culture.  It’s incredibly important to me that I tell my story and share my art with the world.  There are so many phenomenal African and Nigerian artists creating great things but unless the people at places like Venice, Frieze, and even the major museums acknowledge us and realise that African art is not just antiquities until then we will continue to have problems.  We need to keep creating, pushing our art, telling our stories and sharing them with the world, even if it means only on social media."

"The Yorubas alone make up 40 million people, let alone all the Nigerians all over the globe, we need to use our voice in any way we can to share what we know.  That is why I am speaking up about this issue with Damian and his blatant copying and why I am calling a spade a spade.  You see, I am a living breathing Nigerian artist who creates Yoruba art.  I tell stories of the Yoruba mythology often in my works.  My art is heavily influenced by the stories my grandmother told me when I was growing up.  I am just one artist from Nigeria and there are so many of us who are creating amazing bodies of works that tell our stories.  We need to keep pushing ourselves and Nigerians and Africans alike need to hear them and support us."

How much of Western culture do we infuse in our own works? Do you consider this appropriation as well?

"Well, I often like to distinguish between appropriation and appreciation.  I appreciate and learn from those who've come before me and I have people who also have been changed by the art I create.  However, I do my best never to copy someone’s style because that really is just not art in my opinion."

'Art is meant to be original and to tell your truth.  So as long as it tells your truth, even if you have western influences I think it’s just fine.  The world is so mixed and we are so multicultured nowadays anyway.  I used to draw comics as a kid, is that not western influenced?  Yes.  Appropriation, no, not in my opinion."

"However, what Damian Hirst is doing is both appropriating, copying and trying to erase and re-write who created this style of Art.  That is completely not okay.  He knows the type of influence and power he has an artist who’s not only prominent but also a white male.  He’s got white male privilege that I will never have and he’s using it and manipulating it to the best of his ability."

"When you google Ife heads soon enough you will likely only see his works.  To quote Mr Hirst, “with all the liars running our governments, it’s far easier to believe in the past than it is in the future.”  Who’s past should we believe?  Is it the German Anthropologist (Frobenius) who claims the Yorubas were far too primitive to create such beautiful things or is it we the descendants of the Yoruba people who know our own history and can recognise a counterfeit when we see it.  This body of work, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable is an unbelievable pile of cheap knock offs."

Hirst sure owes us an explanation for all these.


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