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Stunning Portraits From Oluwatobi Adewumi Reconstruct Lost Histories of the African Diaspora cover

Stunning Portraits From Oluwatobi Adewumi Reconstruct Lost Histories of the African Diaspora

“I see and understand the world through people,” says portrait artist Oluwatobi Adewumi. “Their faces, expressions, and gazes allow me to represent the often overlooked faces of Black African immigrants across the diaspora.”

Raised in Nigeria, Oluwatobi—who goes by Tobi—moved to the States in 2016 for an artist residency in upstate New York. Now settled in Arkansas, the mostly self-taught artist creates stunning charcoal portraits that relay the story of his journey from one culture to another. “With every piece of art, I produce a story, an opportunity to provide history, a new voice and perspective for my audience,” says Tobi, who sees his work as a conduit for storytelling across different cultures and societies.

Raised in Nigeria and now living in Arkansas, Oluwatobi Adewumi creates charcoal portraits that relay the story of his journey from one culture to another.
‘Blood and Sweat’

His own story echoes a larger narrative surrounding race, history, culture, immigration, and perspective. “History is a big part of my practice,” he says in an interview with The Arkansas Art Scene Blog. “Nigerian newspapers shaped my early knowledge about race and history, as well as stories from my grandparents. Those images were rich, powerful, and heroic.” Translating images from his mind’s eye onto canvas, Tobi reconstructs the lost history of the African diaspora with an eye toward tomorrow. “My practice engages in a critical commentary of the past to learn and unlearn how history shapes our understanding of the present and, in turn, impacts our perception of the future.”

Tobi brings that future to life in two recent bodies of work: Headlines, a series of collaged works that celebrate the resilience and fortitude of Black women; and Facialogue: Dialogue With the Faces, a charcoal-based series that explores traditional African hairstyles, clothing, tribal marks, and face painting. “The men and women who populate my works have been pushed to the second class,” Tobi muses. “However, they have stories—and a history society must acknowledge.”

“I see and understand the world through people.” — Oluwatobi Adewumi

Raised in Nigeria and now living in Arkansas, Oluwatobi Adewumi creates charcoal portraits that relay the story of his journey from one culture to another.
‘Division’
Raised in Nigeria and now living in Arkansas, Oluwatobi Adewumi creates charcoal portraits that relay the story of his journey from one culture to another.
‘Fierce’
Raised in Nigeria and now living in Arkansas, Oluwatobi Adewumi creates charcoal portraits that relay the story of his journey from one culture to another.
‘Doublesided’
‘Queen’
‘Scarface III’
‘Growth and Changes’
‘Headlines’
‘Majestic: Mother Earth’
‘Whose Stories Should We Tell?’

Oluwatobi Adewumi: Website | Instagram

All photos published with permission of the artist(s).

Want to be featured on NOT REAL ART? Email editor@notrealart.com with a short introduction and a link to your online portfolio or three images of your work.

Morgan  Laurens 

Morgan Laurens (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s editor in chief. Morgan is an arts writer from the Midwest who enjoys saying “excuse me” when no actual pardon is needed. She specializes in grant writing and narrative-based storytelling for mission-driven artists and arts organizations. With a background in printmaking, pop culture, and classic literature, Morgan believes a girl’s best friend is the pile of books on her bedside table.

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