Modupeola Fadugba is one of the fast rising female artists in the contemporary Art scene in Nigeria. She enjoys using butterflies to represent change, transformation, seasons and the inevitable passage of time. Her works can be easily mistaken as foreign for their vintage look and features of burnt papers and Latin words. In 2014, she won the prize of One Million Naira for the most Outstanding Concept at the National Art Competition organized by the African Artists Foundation for her Algorithm interaction game for young people.

Modupeola explains her attachment to the butterflies in her works, the many cultural influences reflected in her artistic creations and her love for eyeliners. Enjoy.

Are you a full time studio artist?

I am a full-time artist. I also support the work of WAVE (West African Vocational Education), a vocational training platform focused on training and recruiting unemployed young people for high-growth industries in Nigeria and West Africa more broadly.

What is your work process like and do you have a preferable medium you work with most?

I’m one of the most scatter-brain people I know- much to my own detriment in matters in life, but it seems to work for me in matters of art!  I don’t have a fixed process- sometimes, I’m super organized have notes and sketches that I’ve developed over time and execute. Otherwise, I just do what comes to me and that seems to work. I typically work with paper that I burn to create different textures and effects. I also love mixing and working with acrylic colours.IMG_4000.CR2

What cultures and themes are most dominant in your works and why? 

Because I’ve been influenced by so many cultures, people can’t ever really pin-point any specific culture that I’m trying to depict. Even I can’t tell. It’s like a hodge-podge of European, American, East and West African. As far as themes go, I typically explore themes of women and duality, because we women are just so darn complex or perhaps very simple and therein lies the duality, I guess.

Looking back to your earliest works, which of them are most personal to you? 

I have a small painting called “Generations” which I did in 2006. It took me 4 months to complete, and I’m so attached to it for some inexplicable reason. I will never sell it. I have a few others like this that I hope to gift to my children. I guess, in a way, it’s like collecting my own work. My parents also bought the first “Le Papillion (2004)” (yes, I made my parents pay for my work), and that entire series has come to define much of my later works.  It was a big vote of confidence from them, so it means a lot to me.IMG_4167
What was it like winning One Million Naira at the 2014 National Art Competition?

Winning the money was definitely great, although it was totally not the focal point. For three months, I was literally obsessed with the box I created and did little else. I even took naps inside the box. It’s a great feeling to really get stuck into something…. so winning was like cherry on the cake. Or ice cream.

While still on money, what is the highest your work has ever sold and lowest?

Mmm… For confidentiality between the galleries and clients my work has sold to, I normally don’t divulge prices.  I mean, results from auctions are published, so any one who really wants to have some idea of today’s going rate could find it online, but let it not come from me! What I can say is the lowest my painting sold was in 2004 and the most expensive was in 2014, so it is safe to say that’s a good sign!

We won’t pressure you to disclose the figures really, we are just curious to know how financially rewarding art has been for you. Thanks for the insight. What progress have you made with “The People’s Algorithm and the Butterfly Effect” and how has winning the competition helped the project?

The project was actually featured in a segment on Inside Africa on CNN, which was way beyond anything I expected. I’ve gotten a lot of ideas and input on next steps for my game, and I’m still figuring out where to take it. It’s so big and cumbersome to move around! 

Do you have any special project or exhibition happening in 2015? 

My work will be featured at the Art Energy exhibition in London this February.

Tell us three things you can’t do without? 

My eyeliner is the only thing that comes to mind.

Where are you most relaxed and how do you refresh? 

I’m most relaxed after exercise and I really should do it more often. I really cherish my quiet time. The combination of a good book, a visit to the salon/spa and some ice cream does wonders for me.

Do you have a favourite travel destination?

I used to live in Rwanda, and it was just beautiful! There are so many hills that make for breathtaking views.

That must be a place to see. Nice. What is your biggest fear as an artist? 

Selling out and creating what I think I’m expected to create.

We hope this does not happen but the fear of being predictable is relatable for an artist or any creative person.


Modupeola shared with us 3 books she has read and find inspiring enough to recommend to others; The Art of Start by Guy Kawasaki, Ignore Everyone by Hugh McLeod and Anything (and everything) by her imaginary best friend Chimamanda Adichie. She’s currently reading a lot of French magazines and books which she hinted she barely understands but read them anyways.

The Sole Adventurer will keep you posted on events involving Modupeola Fadugba in Lagos in 2015 but in the meantime, you can visit Red Door Gallery on Bishop Oluwole in Victoria Island to see some of her works.