Nigerian artist Clement Mmaduako Nwafor works with oil paints and collage to create stunning, large-scale paintings on canvas. His love of art started as a child, when he would spend hours drawing with crayons and colored pencils. This led the African artist to seek out an apprenticeship, and he spent two years working under two master sculptors. Transitioning to painting once he moved to the Nigerian capital of Abuja in 2011, his work mainly focuses on portraiture.
Shockingly, given his level of skill, it only took him six months from the time he began painting with oils to begin selling his work. He was encouraged to pick up a brush at the Abuja Arts and Crafts Village, where local painters and sculptors work and sell their art, primarily to tourists. It was there that he met well-known Nigerian painter Oswald Uruakpa, who encouraged him to begin painting.
Now, he focuses on canvases painted in oil and incorporating collage—often using pieces of fabric, resulting in stunning mixed media artwork. Colorful and intricate gele, Nigerian headwraps, feature heavily in his work—Nwafor expertly gives life and movement to the folds of fabric. In some canvases, he incorporates a proverb written on paper (“Whatever you feed yourself with is what you become” or “If you hide sickness, sickness will hide you in the grave”) dangling from the sitter’s ear like an earring.
Soft and colorful, Nwafor’s art almost appears as if it were carefully illustrated in colored pencils or pastels, showing his mastery at manipulating oil paint. Working from photographs, he’s able to create a soulful, lifelike rendering of his subjects. It’s easy to see why his work has already been exhibited internationally, as his skills have increasingly developed since he began painting in 2011, making him a rising star of contemporary African art.