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When you realise that being comfortable in an uncomfortable place no longer serves you, shift over to exploring a new dream that will awaken more than just your passion and fulfilment. That's when you’ll realise that you aren't where you should be and that there's absolutely no reason to relax. Seek a new wilderness and go where you've never been before. You are not a tree and you weren't born to stay rooted in one place. Take the form of water and be fluid and flexible in your approach.
Olatunji Sanusi took on a decision about his future that shook his craft and served him well in his journey as a fine artist. In a foreign South African country far from home in Nigeria and nothing close to anything familiar; he had his faith and a rough sketch pad that presented his future. 

He draws what he sees and is lead by what he feels, hardly misled and continues to soar to new heights. 

I spent P-hive Minutes with Olatunji Sanusi and learnt that his unwavering faith in reaching the ultimate dream pushed him past his fears and faced the unknown with the known.

As you’re originally from Nigeria; how long have you been staying in South Africa? What encouraged your move here?

I’ve been living in South Africa for almost the last six years and I came to live here a few months before the 2010 FIFA World Cup. I was sketching outside the Telkom Tower on a rough notepad and a tourist from the USA came to me, she saw the sketch and intended on buying it. I didn’t believe her and told her it wasn't for sale but she still wanted it. She gave me some money and left with the sketch. The same thing happened the following day with another tourist from France. I knew I was only wasting time and started drawing on a clean sketch pad and really took the craft seriously.

Of all your passions and talents, why did you choose a career as a fine artist?

Choosing a career within the arts wasn't intentional. It was a passion which turned into a reality and I made a career from it. I found myself doing what I love and enjoy and it makes me happy. I can’t go a day without thinking about art.

Did you study towards being a fine artist?

Yes, I studied and obtained a National Diploma in General Art at Yaba College of Technology in Nigeria after my high school.

How long have you being painting? What challenges did you overcome when you first started out?

I’ve been painting for the last 10 years and I started during my varsity days. There are always challenges I face as an artist and I make mistakes. When I think it’s possible to create certain piece, I really do it. I struggled a lot with sketches in the beginning and I didn’t compose perfect drawings but I got better with practice.

Do you use different techniques to produce your artworks? How would you describe these and why do you choose to utilise them?

I use different techniques. I am found of using pieces of magazines and newspapers to make collages and other methods apart from paint. I love experimenting and as I see it, it’s part of recycling. I love thinking out of the box and as the saying goes, “If you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

What ideas or focus points do you communicate through your work? How would you want people to perceive your pieces?

I communicate different ideas through my artworks, I relate them to everyday events and inspiration usually takes over. Sometimes I dream of my paintings and at times the ideas just flow. People have their own ideas, but they should perceive my pieces by the message I communicate through my art. Focus on the impression of the faces in my paintings and the activity going on. There’s always something special about them.

What’s the most expensive piece of art you’ve sold? How do you price your pieces?

The most expensive painting I’ve sold here in South Africa was worth R10 000 and I sold the painting back in 2011. It was a painting of Nelson Mandela in front of the Union Buildings and I sold it to the Waterkloof Guest House. I price my pieces differently according their sizes, the message and the amount of work and inspiration it took to complete the pieces. I price the pieces accordingly.

When did you first host your own solo exhibition and how was the response thereafter?

I had my first solo exhibition at the American Embassy in 2012 where I was invited by people who had seen my work at the Union Buildings. The exhibition launched my career as an artist and I was featured on publications such as Plus 50 and the Nigerian Voice Magazine.

How does it feel to know that you have supporters from international countries that own your artworks and appreciate you as an artist? How do you respond to the support?

I’m always excited when art lovers support my work. Knowing that I have supporters from international countries and having my works appreciated humbles and encourages me to do better. The support keeps me going and I respond to it by producing more striking pieces. I try not to disappoint them because they’ve made me who I am today. My work as an artist is to heal people’s minds and to encourage people to believe in themselves and bring them joy. I want to motivate and inspire the younger upcoming artists as they are the future of tomorrow.

Have you achieved everything you’ve wanted to achieve through your work as an artist or is there still more you want to achieve?

I still have so much to achieve through my goals. At this stage, I thank God for my talent and achievements because I don’t know how my life would be like without Him. I don’t view myself as a worker, yet I wake up every day and do what I love and that brings me joy.

Do you aspire to be like any artist in particular?

I am inventing to my own path because I believe in embracing myself to become stronger and confident unlike imitating other artists I can’t be.

As a fine artist, what is art to you?

Art is life and it would be unpleasant if it had no colour, the world wouldn't even survive without it. A day spent without art is wasted and has no meaning.

When you have no clue of where to turn, look into yourself and trust your abilities. Know where you stand with yourself and how far you're willing to go to protect the vision you still search to live for. No one can achieve greatness single-handedly; because it didn't take just one thing to make each of us. So it’s true that everybody needs somebody.

I spent P-hive Minutes with Olatunji Sanusi; inspired by his bravery and focus to achieve what he has and still remain true and humble to his blessings and talents.

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Sithembiso Promise Xaba | Art
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