Alumni Spotlight: Tobi Onabolu, 2022 G.A.S. Fellowship Award Recipient

Alumni Spotlight: Tobi Onabolu, 2022 G.A.S. Fellowship Award Recipient

While often immersed in his work in Grand Popo, Tobi Onabolu, a recipient of the 2022 G.A.S. Fellowship award, continues to share his journey and creative endeavours following his residency.

Onabolu's film, Danse Macabre, shot in Benin before his G.A.S. residency, has made its rounds in various exhibitions. After private showings at Borna Soglo Gallery in Cotonou and Untitled in Lagos, it is now featured as a video installation at Galerie Ourrouss in Dakar as part of the OFF Biennale program. This film installation is accompanied by a reimagined shrine showcasing photography from the project, complemented by a sound bath that he began developing during his residency. Additionally, Onabolu performed the second iteration of Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? with his masquerade at the vernissage. The performance was developed during his 2023 residency at G.A.S. Foundation's Ijebu center, and debuted at G.A.S. Foundation in Lagos alongside an exhibition of his photography. 



Onabolu's most recent exhibition featured Moses Hamborg, a portrait painter, and Laetitia Walendom, a curator, both of whom have collaborated with him on the Galerie Ourrouss exhibition. Hamborg, who splits his time between Los Angeles and Dakar, graduated from the Florence Academy of Art and has exhibited extensively across Europe, the United States, and West Africa. Onabolu and Hamborg met serendipitously last year through Walendom. Their initial conversation centred around the legacies of West African portraiture, particularly the work of Onabolu's great uncle, Chief Aina Onabolu, a pioneering painter and art educator in Nigeria during the colonial period. Their shared interest in art pedagogies and cultural heritage led to a fruitful collaboration, including portraiture workshops conducted by Hamborg and Walendom for local communities.



Walendom, a tricontinental writer, urbanist, and producer, divides her time between Dakar and Baltimore. Her interdisciplinary work explores the integration of cultural heritage into urban environments to foster vibrant diasporic futures. Walendom holds a Bachelor's degree with Honors in Urban Studies and a Master's degree in African Studies from Stanford University. At Stanford’s Cantor Art Museum, she contributed to the exhibition "Alphabété: The World Through the Eyes of Frédéric Bruly Brouabré," which highlighted the artist's efforts to render African oral languages into written form post-independence in Côte d'Ivoire. Walendom has been pivotal in shaping Hamborg's experience in Dakar and curating the joint exhibition with Onabolu.

As he looks forward to deepening these relationships, he invites his network to stay tuned for more developments and potential magical outcomes from these new connections.


About Tobi Onabolu

Currently based in Grand Popo, Benin Republic, Tobi Onabolu is an artist and writer who works in an interdisciplinary and collaborative style across moving image, poetry, and performance. Interrogating the process of inner-child reconnection, Tobi uses his body and lived experience as a conceptual point of departure. His practice is concerned with expanding consciousness through space and across time, as an avenue for personal and collective healing. Playing with breathwork, movement, and dance, his work evokes the ethereal, considering humans beyond their physical form, as energetic and spiritual beings. 


He holds an MA in African Studies from SOAS, with a thesis on his great uncle, Aina Onabolu, the founding father of Nigerian modernism. He is a Film London Artist Moving Image Network (FLAMIN) Fellow; a G.A.S. Foundation Fellow; and is an Artistic Advisory Board member for Culturescapes Biennale, Basel. Exhibition and performance highlights include Videotage, Hong Kong; RCA, London; and the Royal Albert Hall, London.


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