Toyin Ojih Odutola is a Nigerian artist based in New York who is changing the stereotypical narrative about Nigeria through her art.
She uses medieval Nigeria as a central theme in one of her works, where male laborers known as the Koba serve a ruling class of female warriors known as the Eshun and heterosexuality is frowned upon.
According to The Slowdown, the plot unfolds in a fantasy world with a picturesque landscape reminiscent of Plateau State in Central Nigeria.
These artistic scenes can be found in how Odutola paints her characters’ skin and makes marks on their bodies. She draws characters on the black surfaces with ivory-tone charcoal, pastel, and chalk.
It is Odutola’s style of using a wide range of multimedia drawings to tell fictional stories that encourage people to pause and reflect on current issues. Odutola always wishes for her audience to be intrigued by her work. She induces trance in her audience.
Born in Ife, an ancient Yoruba city in Nigeria, in 1985, Odutola immigrated to the United States with her family in the 1990s. After being subjected to bullying and racial taunts, she began to question her identity. “Every day in the lunchroom and at recess, your blackness and otherness are in your face,” she told Vogue. “It was a three-tiered way of looking at life: You’re already a foreigner in America. And now you’re African among African Americans, which is another disadvantage. Even within your own family, you’re not the same—you’re becoming more Americanized.”