08.09.2021 Featured IBILE: A Solo Exhibition by Segun Fagorusi, the Artist They Said Would ‘Never Make it’

Published 8th Sep, 2021

By Tola Owoyele

Many times, humans think they have a better idea of how fellow humans should live their lives. They speak authoritatively on roads to success, condemning those who dare to ply unpopular paths.

Segun Fagorusi endured ridicule and mockery from such people while studying Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State. Many students said he would never be successful with painting as his full- time profession. However, Fagorusi followed his passion.

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Among several feats over the years, he would host a mega exhibition titled ‘Ibile’ from September 11 to 25 to celebrate the elderly.


Segun Fagorusi

Fagorusi, 32, grew up in the Oworonshoki area of Lagos. The youngest of three children, he attended Moremi Nursery and Primary school, then Marigold College, Oworonshoki and Asolo International College, Mowe.

He studied Fine Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and proceeded to the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, where he got a master’s degree in Fine Arts.


One of Fagorusi’s works

Fagorusi grew up in a home full of books. His mother, being an English teacher and later a school principal, never encouraged the idea of a child going out to play football. She preferred reading and listening to music and poems.

She made sure the house was full of African literature — from authors like Wole Soyinka, Cyprian Ekwensi, Elechi Amadi and Chinua Achebe. This moulded Fagorusi’s love for the arts and, when his elder brother started making cartoon sketches, he began painting, even as a child.


“Back then, it was not something I thought one could take up as a profession. We just did it for fun, or better put, as a means of relaxation,” he told FIJ.

Fagorusi initially met resistance when he told his parents he would love to study Fine Arts. To most people during the period, Fine Arts was not an option.

“Back then, most parents wanted to be referred to as ‘Mama Engineer’, ‘Baba Doctor’, and not ‘Mama Artist,'” he told FIJ.

“The year was 2006, and I wanted to put in for Law because of my parents’ reluctance to let me study Fine Arts. However, it turned out that OAU was not accepting admissions for the course during that period. This helped me switch to Fine Arts without further resistance,” he said.


The major test of Fagorusi’s love for the discipline would come after gaining admission. Studying arts was not what he expected it would be on campus.

“It was quite stressful as an undergraduate. Back in the hostel, when you encountered people and they asked you what you studied, the moment you told them, they looked at you and asked for the reasons you spent most of your time in the studio. They also told you even medicine and engineering students still found time to have fun,” he recalled.

Fagorusi said the impression of several students back then was that the course was an easy ride, unlike other courses that required students to study night and day.


“‘Is it not just to paint?’ ‘What’s the big deal there?’ ‘What are you doing that is always taking your time?’ They would always say to me,” the artist said.

Unlike the thinking of many, said Fagorusi, arts actually takes a lot of time, skill and dedication, especially for one who wants to rank with international artists. Fagorusi recalled the discouraging remarks he got regularly from fellow students during his undergraduate days.

“‘What are you doing studying, arts?’ ‘Do you want to have anything reasonable in your future?’ ‘Are you sure you want to make money in life?’ ‘Don’t you have dreams of becoming rich?’ Some would even look into your face and tell you, ‘Hope you know you won’t get rich doing this’, ‘You’re only following passion, but this passion can’t fetch you money.'”

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The artist said such comments would penetrate his soul and make him have doubts about his chosen path.

“When I was in 100-level, a roommate once sat me down and said, ‘I hope you know this course will only fetch you peanuts at the end of the day. Well, the good thing is, these days, all you need is your certificate and you can work anywhere. However, if you choose to stick to this passion of yours, it will never take you far.'”

Now, the same profession many people once criticised is what he comfortably and conveniently lives off.


Fagorusi is a realist artist. He finds it convenient to connect to things that are real, other than things that are abstract and imaginary.

“I prefer to make people feel, connect and understand my artistic expressions. The best way I feel I can do that is through reality. That has always been the means I find most effective in driving home my point,” he said.

The artist has participated in many arts exhibitions in the past, including Generations 1 to 3 Exhibitions, Lilac Exhibition and the United Kingdom Arts Exhibition.

In 2010, he emerged the south-west winner of the National Gallery of Arts competition.


From September 11 to 25, Fagorusi will hold a solo arts exhibition titled ‘Ibile’ at Mydrim Gallery, Ikoyi. His recent works have been centred around the lives of old people, especially the ones living in rural areas.

‘Ibile’, meaning ‘local’, is an exhibition aimed at taking art lovers back to rural settings, connecting them with their lifestyles, emotions, and the neglect that old people living in rural settings experience.

“It is an exhibition that would document the emotions of old people living in rural settings; men and women, their ways of life, their emotions, what makes them happy, their moods, their needs, things they vibe to, things around them, and generally, the things that make them tick,” he explained.

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“It would also reveal the things you would find around this set of people, the things that need the attention of younger people and could be of help to them, things that younger people should look into in helping this fragile set of people survive their environment.”

He also said the exhibition is aimed at encouraging younger people to take care of their elderly, especially the ones who live in rural areas and do not always have the privilege of enjoying the benefits that come with urban living.

Published 8th Sep, 2021

By Tola Owoyele


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