Laolu Senbanjo's artwork in Beyoncé's "Lemonade" visual album has conjured up a storm that's been rumbling across popular media since the album dropped Saturday evening on HBO. Vogue called him their "new Instagram obsession," and ABC News held a special interview with the Brooklyn-based artist.
In a conversation with OkayAfrica, Senbanjo said he was invited by the pop star's management to decorate her dancers with his signature designs for "Sorry," a song off of the new album. "It was crazy because I couldn't say no," he said. "If Queen B wants you ... It was so unreal. I just left everything I was doing."
Senbanjo cites his Nigerian roots as a major source of his visual inspiration, though formally, his visual references share affinities with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He writes on his website: "All of my work is heavily influenced by my Yoruba heritage and often related to the environment I find myself in."
Since leaving behind his life as a human rights lawyer in Nigeria, Senbanjo maintains multiple creative practices beyond his work in art. Among them are visual works that appear on canvas, footwear, walls, and apparel. And he also advertises himself as an actor in the web series "Assorted Meat," as well as a musician.
Last September, Senbanjo performed the process of painting his subjects, which he calls "Yoruba Ritual Body Art," at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporic Art (MoCADA) in Brooklyn.
Senbanjo's success, of course, comes at a time when Nigeria's art market is experiencing a new era. British filmmaker and artist Zina Saro-Wiwa opened a pop-up gallery in Port Harcourt in 2014, and Theo Danjuma opened his Danjuma Collection in Lagos that same year. In an interview with Bloomberg, Giles Peppiatt, director of Bonhams, said that interest in contemporary African and diasporic art is on the rise. "Nigeria has certainly led the way in this revolution," Peppiatt said, "with the artists and prices that have dominated the results coming from Africa."
See more of Senbanjo's body art, below.