Lagos-based artist, James Olloh, turns art works into novel brands, AKEEM LASISI writes
If the future of the art world belongs to artists who know how to go the extra mile, then James Olloh is likely to have a great stake in it. In the past few years, he has been working silently, adding value to his first passion: visual art. The result is pretty novel. Olloh has produced a brand of radio that carries a lamp and narrates folktales, while he has also created very beautiful lamps with sculpted seats.
A visit to his factory on College Road in the Ogba area will leave many people dazed in terms of the volume and intensity of activity going on there. In different rooms, there is a collection of what can appropriately be called modern and trendy carvings, all married to one household product or the other.
“I am the one who created all of this – in terms of idea and design. But I work with various artisans like welders, carpenters. I believe that art collectors will appreciate one’s works better if you add value to them,” Olloh says.
It is the came principle that inspired him to ‘invent’ a radio that wears a crown of lamp. But, unlike other radios that relay news and music, Olloh’s is a ‘talking radio’. Believing that an artist can use a stone to kill more than two birds, he has programmed folk tales into the radio, so that when the buyer is using the lamp, he is still listening to African stories from the radio on which it sits.
“To me, this is a way of bringing our rich stories into the present and the future. I am working with renowned artist, Jimi Solanke, who is voicing the stories,” the artist, who has some 10 people directly or indirectly working for him.
Olloh will be stepping out at an exhibition that he is staging in Lagos between October 15 and and 21. The event tagged Artkeeper’s Folktales Lamp Exhibition will hold at the National Council of Arts and Culture Auditorium at the National Theatre, Surulere. According to the artist, it will feature Solanke’s TV Storyland Re-lived, Collage Collection and Music; Olloh’s Artkeepers’ Lamp and Paintings and Vera Akpan’s Ore mi Sisi Ologe Fashion Crafts.
Olloh explains that because his works have been collected by many people and institutions, people from various walks of life will attend it. Among the special guests, he says, is the Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr. Peter Amangbo, who has collected one of his lamps.
But Olloh, a Delta indigene who has lived the most part of his life in Lagos, is also a writer. Recently, he published his first novel, Wounded Hearts.
His artist’s profile also indicates that he has a mixture of sound intellect and studio practice, while he has also been involved in the promotion of the arts by encouraging talented youths that he entered for international competitions.
“His works adorn many homes in Nigeria and abroad. He is one of the recipients of the Solidra Circle Award for his creative roles in the promotion of arts in Nigeria. He is also an astute business man, and runs his private company, Jinoish International Ltd, under whose umbrella he designed Art Keepers’ Lamps and The Art Keepers’ Folk Tale Lamps. He became obsessed with using masks of various types for his lamps as a result of his childhood influence where he mentally studied masquerades from various tribes of Nigeria during festive seasons,” the citation further reads.