Spotlighting the Nigerian artist whose work caught the world’s attention in Beyoncé’s latest video.
Laolu Senbanjo’s life has changed quite a lot in a little amount of time. A decade ago, he worked as the senior legal officer for Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. Now, he’s a New York City–based artist, whose “Afromysterics” style has appeared on everything from Nike shoes to television screens worldwide.
To be fair, Senbanjo has identified as an artist since a young age, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he decided to pursue that identity more fully. Gathering up the courage to overcome familial pressure, he quit his law job and started an art gallery in Abuja, Nigeria. From there, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 2013, after which his artistic style quickly skyrocketed him to fame — perhaps most notably catching the eye of international superstar Beyoncé.
For one segment of her 2016 video “Lemonade,” the singer hired Senbanjo to paint his “Sacred Art of the Ori” on her dancers’ bodies (shown at left). “In my language, Yoruba, ‘Ori’ literally means your essence, your soul,” Senbanjo explained. “When I work with a muse, the muse, their Ori and I become one. My art form is physically drawing what’s on the inside.”
Whatever his canvas, Senbanjo’s art incorporates African themes and traditions, as he believes strongly in “holding onto your culture and spreading its glory.” So far, he’s spread the glory of his Yoruba roots to work with brands and people as wide-ranging as Equinox Fitness and Seun Kuti — and it seems he’s only just begun.