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Femi Morakinyo’s Contemporary Postal Art Bodes Renaissance 

Femi Morakinyo

This oil, acrylic on canvas painting features two little girls about the age of ten in front of a house. One of them is holding a basin which has a rough sketch of Nigeria’s 10 naira note imprinted on it. The other girl holds a yellow nylon, santana– as it is colloquially called in Nigerian markets. As usual with Femi Morakinyo’s works, it has a postal watermark somewhere in the work. And as usual in Femi Morakinyo’s work, it is a snapshot of culture: a civilisation preserved as art, in the style of postage stamps.


Femi Morakinyo - Best Friends

Artist: Femi Morakinyo
Title: Best Friends


Growing up in Akure, Ondo State, Femi started drawing as early as five years old. “l was replicating images I saw in comics, bible illustrations, postal stamps, magazines and journals. Art wasn’t really a big profession at the time, most people practicing art back then were roadside artists doing handwritten sign boards and signage but I still managed to develop a keen interest in drawings just for fun.” He eventually pursued this passion into Yaba College of technology Lagos where he studied Fine Arts and majored in Painting. 


Femi’s father, who was a Pastor and Banker, engaged in Philately, the act of collecting and appreciating Postal stamps. This exposed Femi to the artistic beauty, history and identity that caused many of the stamps to be issued in the first place. While Philatelic interests have dwindled worldwide in recent years, and almost non-existent in Nigeria, the records kept around this practice elevates it, and renders it ever more relevant. 


These stamps celebrate various national antiques, and identifiers: personalities, buildings, animals, horticulture and cities.They seek to define places and time periods. Similarities can be drawn to Femi Morakinyo’s works as well. Life of the Party features a lady in Aso Oke, traditional Yoruba party outfit stepping out of a yellow Keke Napep in front of the Vaughan Family House at 29, Kakawa Street, Lagos Island. “The average Lagosian loves to party, have fun and meet new people.” Femi adds, “Lagos is the city of hustle and bustle so what better way to destress than going out to unwind and groove to the latest music in town. And of course, not to forget, the jollof.” 


Life of the Party

Artist: Femi Morakinyo
Title: Life of the Party


Femi’s art style is catchy, they are colorful and vintage in presentation. He places a postal stamp right on the painting for added immersion. While the artist takes creative liberties in portraying human subjects, the backgrounds, and objects within the landscape that peg it to a time period are rendered as accurate, and to scale as possible. “Gone are the Days” takes us right into the early 2000s with two men each wearing traditional, and western gentleman clothing. There is brilliant use of colour contrast here, where the green car, probably a Mercedes Benz sits in front of a stark red Coca-cola depot. Just by the two men is a Photocopier’s signage advertising 2 naira 50 kobo per print. With recent currency trepidation, one can tell that Femi made this work as a homage to simpler, quieter, and probably happier times.


In conversations with Femi, he lists out artists like Edosa Ogiugo, Olusegun Adejumo, Diseye Tantua and Duke Asidere as his inspirations growing up. These artists maintain a distinct visual identity in their various styles. Similarities to Femi’s colorful postal approach might not be obvious at first glance but the presence of African subjects and subject matter remains a common thread that binds himself and his inspiration. This just reveals how much Contemporary African art has grown. It might seem that Femi Morakinyo is determined to continue, or in the least– kickstart a renewed appreciation for the artistic stories in Nigerian postal stamps. Stamps are still being produced in Nigeria, but with little interest from anyone who didn’t acquire the taste during the heydays. 


Artist: Femi MorakinyoTitle: Gone are the Days

Artist: Femi Morakinyo
Title: Gone are the Days


Femi’s decision to revitalize this style is very informed by his everyday experiences. “Most of my paintings are done based on past events and occasions. “Each piece I create is simultaneously a reflection of my childhood memories, where I come from, what I have seen and learned.” The artist said, recognising that his path is one that preserves and evokes human experiences. “Classic cars, antique furniture, vintage clocks, old fashion and electronics to say a few, are seen in my paintings to stir up deep feelings of nostalgia.”


Femi currently works as a Senior Art Director at one of the leading marketing agencies in Nigeria. While Femi claims that his day job as an advertising personnel doesn’t really affect or mix with his artistic capabilities, he does admit that the prior knowledge of being an artist makes him a better designer. “I use colours effortlessly because I know how they mix.”


These postal inspired works have been exhibited within numerous galleries and events like Creativity in Times of Crisis, (COVID-19) a Virtual Reality Joint Exhibition (2021), Stamps of Memories Solo exhibition at Mydrim art gallery, Lagos (2022), Nostalgia II Virtual Joint exhibition curated by The Holy art London Gallery (2022), From Lagos with love Art exhibition (2022). When asked what he wants to achieve with his art, Femi Morakinyo laughs. “According to George Santayana: ‘To know your future you must know your past.’ It is in these words that I want my audience to find the meaning in my art and with the aim of guiding the next generation to take cognisance of the past in preparing for tomorrow.”


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Oyedele is passionate about culture and arts. Engage on instagram and twitter, @omoalokan