Samuel Adebuga Reflects on Life in Upcoming Exhibition

Vanessa Obioha

In a few days, Samuel Adebuga will be introducing his latest work titled ‘Deji Adebuga: The Retrospective Exhibit 2024’ to the world. The exhibition will be a reflection of his life from childhood to adulthood, capturing moments and experiences that have defined his life over the years.

Adebuga who was the Senior Media Typographer / Illustrator for 20 years at PUNCH and Concord group of newspapers respectively, has long evinced a passion for arts. His fascination with art began in his childhood, drawing in charcoal and watercolours.

“As a child artist. Variety of animals was my favourite subject matter – horses, giraffes, elephants, goats, sheep and the rooster- “kukuruku: the timekeeper and alarmist” in rural towns or villages. Along with beautiful and colourful butterflies and of course the general environment landscape of my locality,” he recalled.

His talent was quickly recognized by his teachers, who often asked him to illustrate lessons on the blackboard. One piece of advice from an elementary school teacher stayed with him: “No matter the career path your parents want you to embark on, always take arts with you.”

Adebuga pursued his passion academically, earning an Art in Commerce degree from Bennett College, London, studying Liberal Studies and Fine Art at Staten Island College, New York (CUNY), and obtaining an Associate in Business in Graphic Design from Bradford School, Ohio. He currently works at the Ohio State University’s Department of Art in Columbus.

In the ’70s and ’80s, Adebuga made his mark as an editorial graphic artist for PUNCH and Concord Press.

“I enjoyed designing commercial logos, branding for new ventures advertisements, newspapers and magazines’ stories layout formats, photo-editing (cropping) and illustrations with no technology usage. Most impactful moments included working on the design of the PUNCH newspaper’s logo, layouts and designs of HappyHome, SuperWoman and TopLife Magazines, all PUNCH publications.”

His paintings are largely autobiographical, capturing the constant transformations dictated by life in society. His mediums include Acrylic, Charcoal, and mixed media among others. For ‘Deji Adebuga: The Retrospective Exhibit,’ Adebuga relied on his memories over the years.

“My memories hold the power to every emotion that I have had about situations, telling the stories that create visual narratives that resonate across time,” he explained.

He aims to bring his body of works to the forefront as they “entail and serve as an ‘artist diary’ of documentation of happenings in our world. Every piece of my works to be exhibited has a storyline and timeline.”

One notable work in the exhibit is “Beloved Cecil,” a tribute to the famous Cecil the Lion, a major tourist attraction in Zimbabwe who was killed in 2015.

“Visitors are in for ‘wow’ moments,” Adebuga promised. “They will have the opportunity to engage with my works on a deeper level through guided tours and my talks.”

The exhibition also includes an installation of an African village within the gallery.

“Also, ankara fabrics and white cotton wool have become new features in my recent works for unique poignant visual interpretations. My mixed-media paintings are self-explanatory, visual interpretations of subject matter, at times with quotations of “words of wisdom” that re-echo to the viewers. My works have Yoruba titles and are translated to English for non-Yorubas,” he said.

Music is a recurring theme in Adebuga’s work.

“A lot of my paintings depict Nigerian musicals, the ones we don’t see being used in the music industry today. One of the instruments is ‘Agidigbo.’ It is always a joy when art lovers stand still to look at this particular work, I dive into the storytelling of the component and the power of agidigbo.”

Political and societal issues also feature prominently in his work. Adebuga lives and breathes art. “I see art in everything around me. Art making in any form is very therapeutic and doing it with passion makes my day purposeful and fulfilling. A perfect statement that resonates with my life is ‘Life is art. Art is life. I never separate it’ by Ai Wei Wei.”

‘Deji Adebuga: The Retrospective Exhibit 2024’ will open on Saturday, July 13, in Ohio, US.

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