Nigerian Artist Behind Painting Sold For ₦64m Criticised For Promoting Racist Tropes

The piece, “The three Yoruba Brothers” features three monkeys named Alara, Ajero, and Orangun.

The Nigerian artist and designer Olaolu Akeredolu-Ale known as Olaolu Slawn is facing backlash for a painting named “The three Yoruba Brothers” that was sold for £31,750 or about ₦64 million at a Sotheby’s auction in the UK.

The piece has been criticised for promoting racist tropes and catering to a Western caricature of people of African descent.

The painting features three hideous-looking monkeys with massive lips named Alara, Ajero, and Orangun. Depicting black people with exaggerated facial features or as monkeys in Western media has for long been frowned upon as a racist dehumanisation.

But after old posts by Slawn on X (formerly Twitter) resurfaced critics say that the tropes depicted in the painting are intended to dehumanise.

In one of the old posts he said, “Nigeria is really nigger area.” In another, he said, “I’m making an app where white people can pay to call me nigger anonymously.”

After a user on X posed the question, “Who is your target audience?” Slawn replied “Racists.”

In response to the backlash Slawn said on X, “you lot are fuckin neeks u know and ima make sure my son and my girlfriend never see poverty or stress, ima see to it that all of u that are praying on my downfall so u can witness my family suffer will see, I’ll put it in your faces everyday, watch me.”

In his catalog note for “The Three Yoruba Brothers”, he said, “I am not just Nigerian. I am Yoruba. This work is an expression of my identity.

But even as he faces backlash, he has become a rising voice in the contemporary African art scene by cultivating a mostly white audience.

When he made his debut in 2022 at Sotheby’s, the biggest auction house in the UK and one of the world’s largest brokers of fine art, his painting, “Bobo n Jarrad Go To Church,” sold for £27,720, (or about ₦30 million at the time) despite its £7,000 initial price point. “Bobo n Jarrad Go To Church” was sold in a curation of art titled Contemporary Curated by the rapper, Skepta.

Slawn who was born in Lagos, but is now based in the UK, rose to fame for his graffiti street art but has very quickly entered into the mainstream European art scene. Last year Slawn was commissioned to design the annual BRIT Awards statue.

After he made his 2022 debut at Sobethy’s, Slawn held an exhibition titled “On A Darker Note” at the Efie Gallery in Dubai which featured 12 of his works.

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