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Meet Nigerian metal sculptor using scraps to create unique art

Meet Nigerian metal sculptor using scraps to create unique art

Dotun Popoola posing by his sculpture (African Warrior) on display at the Africa Investment Forum 2023 in Marrakech Morocco.

Dotun Popoola, a renowned Nigerian metal sculptor , recently spoke at the Africa Investment Forum in Marrakech, Morocco, advocating for the transformation of waste into wealth. Popoola, who has always used art as a medium of expression, sees iron scrap as a metaphor for the dysfunction of society and believes that it can be repurposed to create economic opportunities.

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The journey to becoming a successful artist was not an easy one for Popoola. He discovered his passion for art at the age of 4 and sought out a mentor in the United States who taught him how to weld iron materials into art. He sold his car to fund his trip to the US and after a successful exhibition in Lagos, he knew he had found his market.

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Popoola’s work focuses on turning waste into wealth, particularly through metal recycling. He emphasized that his art creates an economy for recycling and reduces tons of waste in Nigeria. His larger projects can take one to two years to execute, but he is committed to training and mentoring other artists to spur the art community in Africa.

In an effort to share his knowledge and skills, Popoola has set up a studio near Obafemi Awolowo University to train aspiring artists. He has already mentored 400-500 individuals in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, and dreams of reaching even more aspiring artists across Africa. He believes that by creating resources for their countries, they can reduce the migration numbers out of Africa.

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Popoola also highlighted the challenges faced by artists in Africa, noting that the capacity for art is low on the continent. He hopes to train over 1000 people in each country he can reach, so they can contribute to their countries’ resources and reduce the need for talent to migrate abroad.

Despite the challenges, Popoola remains optimistic about the growth of the art market in Nigeria. He is determined to spur the art market by building a scrap art museum and hopes that the government will support his efforts. He has even emptied his bank account to start the project, demonstrating his commitment to promoting the arts in Nigeria.

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One of Popoola’s key initiatives is mentorship, through which he shares his knowledge and incubates talent. He cited an example of one of his mentees who used scrap tires to create a 40-foot sculpture, creating an ecosystem that benefits both the artists and the community. He believes that nurturing talent in Nigeria will inspire others to stay in the country and contribute to the local art community.

Popoola also emphasized the need for government support for the arts in Nigeria. While he has been fortunate to have his work featured in the luxury market, he wants to create opportunities for other artists to explore their talents. He urged government officials, banks, and other investors to join him in raising geniuses in Africa.

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In conclusion, Dotun Popoola’s advocacy for turning waste into wealth through art is not only transforming materials but also creating economic opportunities and nurturing talent across Africa. His dedication to mentorship and his vision for a thriving art community in Nigeria are inspiring others to follow in his footsteps. With the support of government and investors, Popoola hopes to make a lasting impact on the art world in Africa.