Dennis Osadebe

The future of Nigeria reimagined

Dennis Osadebe (he/him) was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1991, where he continues to live and work.

Education

Dennis Osadebe didn’t go to art school. While studying for an undergrad in Business Management, he got his first MacBook Pro, introducing him to digital art and design techniques that he still uses today.

Early inspirations

Nigeria’s Anambra State, where Osadebe originates from, is known for its festivals and masquerades. The costumes, masks and dancing involved in the celebrations have intrigued him since childhood.

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Collaborations with Dennis Osadebe

Avant Arte and Dennis Osadebe have one upcoming collaboration.

Practice overview

One question is at the heart of Dennis Osadebe’s art – “what will Nigeria’s future look like?” His graphic, colourful portraits show people in traditional masks, inspired by the expressive features of Yoruba masks. Going about their daily tasks, the settings are familiar, but things are quietly odd. One person rides a broken motorbike in their living room. Another stands with a horse in a library, totally nonchalant. To create these scenes, Osadebe sketches his designs directly onto the computer, partly inspired by cartoons he loved as a kid. Next, he prints the images onto paper and adds acrylic paint over the top. The artist mixes digital and analogue techniques on purpose – as a symbol of our times.

Osadebe melds the past and future into the present day. His masks are a perfect example of this. Yoruba masks have been used for centuries to enter new spiritual realms. They symbolise Osadebe’s West African heritage, but he also sees them as VR headsets – a symbol of technology which has brought 'sci-fi futures' rapidly into the present. As Osadebe points out: “is it not fair to say that the future has always been here, in West Africa?”

“Radical innovation stems from building from the past and not clinging on to it.”Dennis Osadebe