- Nigerian grafitti artist Osa Seven wants to change the perception of graffiti in Nigeria.
- Through his 7th Element Initiative he helps local artists access tools.
- He partnered with other artists to create 'Art for a Cause' to introduce art to school kids
Lagos is not known for its street art but that's something graffiti artist Osa Seven wants to change.
Seven grew up in Festac, a lively neighborhood in Lagos where some of his earliest work still marks the walls.
Despite the negative connotations surrounding graffiti Seven was undeterred and knew a career in art was his future. He's made a name for himself as a leading graffiti artist and has created art for big names clients like Guinness and Kia. He now has a new, two-fold agenda: to encourage upcoming artists and to change the perception of graffiti in the minds of Nigerians.
"The biggest setback is getting Nigerians to actually understand and accept graffiti as a form of self-expression, a form of communication and a form of design," Seven told CNN. " A couple of people still see it as constituting nuisance or disrupting their walls and things like that."
Inspired by the worldwide appeal of graffiti artists like Banksy, Seven set up the 7th Element initiative to help artists in Nigeria publicize, commercialize and monetize their work.
"It inspired me," he says. "So the best I could do is share my knowledge and share what I know with people around me or people who need this information."
The initiative also helps artists tackle another pressing challenge they face—accessing the right tools.
"Over here you can't really get spray paint and caps and paint markers. It's not readily available here, there's really no market for it so what we have to do we have to import which is quite expensive," he explains.
"We're talking to a couple of people and we've created an online platform and community where we can make them [resources] available for people, graffiti artists here who are making art here and can't get resources."
His commitment doesn't end there. He's partnered with other artists in Lagos to create 'Art for a cause' an initiative geared towards injecting creativity into learning spaces for kids.
"We visited a couple of schools and we saw the walls were plain and dirty," he says.
"We decided to go to these schools, engage the kids and paint educative artworks on the walls which creates some kind of subconscious and awareness in them."
Some view walls as barriers but Seven sees them as blank canvasses for artists to express themselves, it's this message he is keen to impart.
"The good part about graffiti and street art is there's really no boundaries or limitations," he says.
"Everything can be a canvas, you could paint on practically anything, we're just trying to inspire people to show them that it could be done."