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O Yemi Tubi

Oil: Africans’ Wealth and Woes
Nigerian flag

Artist's Statement

As in many African countries, Nigeria is rich in agricultural products and many natural resources. Before the advent of petroleum oil; cocoa, coffee, groundnuts, palm oil, and other agricultural products were the main sources of Nigeria’s wealth. Since the early 1970s, the petroleum oil boom era, the Nigerian government’s attention has concentrated mainly on oil and the revenue it generates.


Very few Nigerians have become very wealthy through oil money while oil pollution of air, water, and farmlands has made many Nigerians extremely poor. Indeed, Petroleum Oil is WEALTH to very few people and a WOE to the majority of people of Nigeria. This is what influenced the painting. 


As an artist who originated from Nigeria, I was moved by the plight of my people from the Niger Delta in Nigeria where oil pollution affects the lives and livelihood of the people.

I started from the top painting the sky with cyan blue and white colors which I later went over with black and white colors to turn the beautiful sky to grey to reflect the polluted air produced by thick smoke emitting from the burst oil pipe from the far left of the painting. This caused ecological disaster killing fishes and other wildlife in the area. The thick smoke from the burning of these fossil fuels is one of the largest contributors to climate change as it emits carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Under the polluted air, I painted a rusty-roof shack village to show the level of poverty of the people living in the oil-rich part of the country with some of the fishermen boats stationed idle at the bank of the oil-polluted river, and in the foreground are the children fetching water and drinking water from the polluted river.






Curator Comments


It is now 55 years ago, in 1956 precisely, that oil was first discovered in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, and even today it is one of the largest oil-producing states in Nigeria. Whilst Nigeria joined the ranks of oil countries in 1958 as the petroleum sector became one of the primary sources of the country`s economy, the realisation that every coin has two sides grew steadily among the communities in Ogoniland and Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta. It’s millions Ogoni people and the Ijaw people that have suffered from the oil industry impact the most. In a 15-year period from 1976 to 1991 there were reportedly 2,976 oil spills of about 2.1 million barrels of oil in Ogoniland.

The 1990 Movement of the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) that hoped to gain political and economic autonomy for the Ogoni people, leaving them in control of the natural resources of Ogoniland and protecting themselves against further land degradation was quelched by the Nigerian government when it executed several MOSOP leaders in 1994, after earlier village raids, resulting in the death of 2,000 Ogoni people and displacement of approximately 80,000. The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) in an attempt to reinstate their natural rights to ownership and control of their land and resources that were degraded by transnational oil companies issued the Kaiama Declaration in 1998.


UNEP, in their 2011 assessment of more than 200 locations in Ogoniland concluded that it could take up to 30 years to rehabilitate the region to its full potential as the impacts of the 50 years of oil production, oil spills, oil flaring, and waste discharge. The alluvial soil of the Niger Delta is no longer viable for agriculture, and left their groundwater with high levels of hydrocarbons, contaminated with benzene, a carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above WHO guidelines.

About The Artist

O Yemi Tubi, a Nigerian-born, USA-trained Artist, residing in the United Kingdom as an artist with a unique style. Some of his paintings were influenced by the political and social upheaval of the world today and the works of Renaissance artists.

 He has exhibited his works around the world and received awards and recognitions. His works "SOYINKA: an Africans Literary Icon" is one of the works shortlisted by the Emerging Scene Art Prize 2021. His works were exhibited in Art Revolution Taipei Taiwan international exhibition in 2020 and 2021, His works were awarded 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th places in American Art Awards from 2014 to 2021. He was a recipient of the Golden Award with cash award in the 2014 Master of Art International exhibition by Margarita Feaks Gallery, UK. He also received First Round Award with cash in Art Olympia 2015 International Open exhibition in Tokyo Japan.

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