The Arts

April 15, 2024

I started drawing as a child – Omon, France-based Nigerian artist

Sophia Omon is a France-based Nigerian contemporary artist whose works have been exhibited locally and internationally. 

In this virtual interview with CHUKWUMA AJAKAH, she speaks on the early days of her career and her journey to fame: 

Tell us briefly about your career as an artist.

I started drawing since I was a child. It was not really easy for me then because my mom refused to get me the materials, so I did a lot of drawings on my books and also whatever platform I could lay my hands on then, including walls.

At some point I decided to study fine art in the university and I was supposed to have had it as one my subjects in secondary school to be able to do that.  My mom was against my choice of study and my school principal was really upset with me.

The principal wondered how a human being could choose to study fine arts in university.  Because l was the only student sitting for the subject, they had to make provisions for me to enroll for the subject in my SSCE, so as to qualify to study it in the university. When I discussed it with one of our vice principals, she felt for me. She understood where I was coming from and told the school principal to let me be.  She also talked to my mom. That was how I was able to study art.

As a kid, I already found myself drawing all over my books and the walls at home. To be specific, I started painting professionally in 2015.

How would you categorise your work?

I am a painter. I use acrylic on canvas.

What are your thematic preoccupations – the socio-cultural issues you explore through your works? 

I pass messages to women and young girls on the need for them to be empowered. I also have a message for adults facing bullying or domestic violence in their matrimonial homes, all in the name of marriage. Women, for instance, should be involved in supporting the home. Many women didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, but they shouldn’t be a burden to their husbands and kids. They should engage in businesses so they can be useful to the society and their homes.

READ ALSO: Emirates to resume flights to Nigeria before June— Keyamo

My mother inspires my artworks because she was a typical example of a virtuous woman. She was unable to go to school, but she was the breadwinner of her family, because she chose to stay empowered as a woman.

The contrasting dark tunes and the stories behind my works project Africa’s rich cultural heritage.

What other things inspire your works?

Adulthood – being responsible for yourself and the society, and not using your challenges as an excuse to be a burden to others.

How many works have you produced so far?

Over 60 pieces.

Who are your role models in art?

Bruce Onobrakpeya and Sam Ovraiti.

What are the exhibitions you have participated in?

The most memorable for me was my solo exhibition in October 2020, because I did an installation of myself on how I was depressed, but was able to survive it through the help of balloons. Others include  “Magazine Book Lunch (ParislitUp)” Paris, France (2024), “Nigeria Health Watch Art Exhibition” (2023), “Embrace Equity International Women’s Day” (2023),  Open Studio, “Marnay Sur Seine”, France (2022), “Spotlight”, Nike Art Gallery, Lagos-Nigeria (2022), “Break The Bias” (International Women’s Day, Olori Art Gallery, Lagos-Nigeria (2022), “Celebrating Womanhood”, Art Gala (Nigeria Health Watch), Abuja-Nigeria (2021), “Mentopedia” (An Art exhibition of Urban Design and Brain Health), “Lagos-Nigeria (2021), “Fresh Voices (The First MurMur), Lagos-Nigeria (2021), “INSIGHT”, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, U.S.A (2019), “Choose to Challenge” (International women’s day), China Cultural  Centre. 

There are also “Each for Equal”, International Women’s Day Art Exhibition, British Residence, Lagos, Nigeria (2020), AFRICAN ART, Historical Institute in Africa, Hekima University College, Nairobi, Kenya (2019), “INSIGHT”, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, U.S.A (2019), “Uncovered Female Nigerian Artists” (FEAAN and AGAMA ARTI British Club, British Village 2, Abuja-Nigeria (2019), “DESTINY” (International Women’s Day), Alexies Galleries, Lagos and “Nigeria @ 58” Nigerian Consulate, Johannesburg, South-Africa (2018).  Presently, I am preparing some painting for the Olympic in Paris coming up in July.

What advice do you have for Nigerian artists who may be considering ‘japa’ – migrating to other countries in search of greener pastures?

I left Nigeria because I wanted to change my environment and start life afresh. To every young artist, I would say, there’s no place like home.  Before you consider “japa”, you should prepare well. Don’t leave your country to live illegally.

Do you have any parting remark?

Well, artists should always support one other and share opportunities for everyone to shine.