Who is Laolu Senbanjo? and if you are wondering what the sacred art of the Ori is, remember the beautifully intricate tribal body art that was seen on Beyoncé’s background dancers in the visual of “Sorry”, the fourth track on her Lemonade album? As well as on Beyoncé face in the form of delicate white dots on the bridge of her eyebrows and dragged from her lower eyelid towards her cheeks? The body painting is the sacred art of the Ori.
The mastermind behind this art form is no other than Laolu Senbanjo, who was born on October 19, 1980, in Ilorin, a town in Nigeria where his parents, both of Yoruba origin, raised him. His root origin, the Yoruba culture, is the essence of his art and his grandmother, who had tattoos on her arms and legs, inspired him considerably, and she explained to him that her tattoos were actually symbols from the Yoruba mythology.
If you know a thing about African families from days of yore, Nigerian in particular, then the massive parental interferences on their offspring’s career, marital lives or generic life paths won’t come as a surprise, and Laolu Senbanjo was no exception. His lawyer father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, which he initially did till 2010 when he quit his job as a human rights attorney and in 2013, he moved to New York to follow his dream by practising art wholly. In due time, his family warmed up to his new career and are his biggest fans.
“And because no matter who you are, if you believe in yourself and your dream, New York will always be the place for you”
– Michael Bloomberg.
For Laolu Senbanjo, fame didn’t come easy. There he was in New York, broke, no agents, guidance, or representation; he was on his own. Under those circumstances, he started to paint on clothes, objects and doing commissioned personalisation for people to make ends meet. He definitely was not going down without a fight and worked on everything he could lay his hands on, turning it into his canvas, hence his motto: “Everything is my canvas.” And yes, he did work hard, and he connected with his niche clients who were proud of his work.
He had an epiphany to veer into body painting when he saw a photo Reign Apiim, a Jeweler who creates jewellery from healing crystals, posted on Instagram; she was standing in front of his painting. At that moment, he saw his artwork go into her and come out of her, he saw her as one with his art. She was one of the very first people he body painted, and till date, he still works with her.
Then one day, he got that call. He opened his email, and he got a message signed Beyoncé, where she wanted him to work with her as she loved his work. She wanted to pay homage to New Orleans and that his art also reminded her of her creole origins. Who says hard work and consistency doesn’t pay? From there on, the sky, for Laolu Senbanjo was the limits.
In essence, Laolu Senbanjo is not all about body painting, we can confidently say he is a broad-spectrum artist as he is also a musician, whose musical style is deeply rooted in the traditions of Afrobeat and High Life, mixed with Afro-Soul and Reggae as well as a visual artist.
A few of the brands Laolu has worked with that we are very excited about include:
Nike – Master of Air
Also, being a passionate activist, Laolu Senbanjo has expressed that he uses his art to fight for what he believes in, and this can be seen on many of his visual artworks where feminism, women and children are common themes.
By all means, Laolu Senbanjo’s talent and art form are here to stay, and we can not wait to see what he has in store for us in the future.
“Every piece of art has a story, and every artist has a name” – Laolu Senbanjo.