Akionla Lasekan was born at Ipele, near Owo in Ondo State in 1916, he is widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers and masters of modern Nigerian art in the same league as esteemed artists such as Aina Onabolu, Ben Enwonwu, Erhabor Emokpae and Bruce Onobrakpeya. He had his early tutelage under Aina Onabolu who is regarded as the father of Nigerian Modern Art.
Akinola Lasekan started his career as a textile designer before veering into book illustrations for publishing companies such as the CMS Bookshop, Thomas Nelsons Ltd, Oxford University Press, Longmans and Macmillan. While working with CMS Bookshop between 1936 and 1940, he took corresponding courses in fine art, art illustrating and cartooning. His first diploma was in fine art, obtained in 1937 from Normal College of Art in London. In 1939, he obtained his second diploma in advanced drawing, illustrating, commercial art and cartooning from Washington School of Art in the United States of America.” So good was Lasekan at what he did and so devoted to his practice that he later opened an independent art studio in Lagos and later taught students of St Gregory’s College and Eko Boys High School and was engaged by St Mary’s Convent School as an Art teacher before moving further up the ladder by lecturing at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.). He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London. He made name for himself as a nationalist with his sharp political cartoons, which appeared daily in the defunct West African Pilot as the clamour for independent increased and for his realistic paintings on different themes from allegorical paintings on pro-nationalism to landscape drawings.
According to Dublin-Green, some of “Lasekan’s popular works include an oil painting called The last Political Mission of Herbert Macaulay, The Story of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in oil on canvas, a pictorial and historical composition entitled, The Return of Ajaka of Owo painted in poster colour on paper, and Atilogwu Dancers, among others several others.” Given his public spiritedness, several of his artworks were donated to the Nigerian National Gallery of Arts and were exhibited during the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977. It follows therefore that Lasekan’s legacy is one of patriotism, excellence and nurturing a new generation of artists.
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