Pioneering the art scene, Oyinkansola Dada uses her gallery and newly formed magazine to establish a space for rising Black talent.  At its core, Dada endeavours to increase accessibility in the art world for those typically marginalised in the scene. Addressing divisive themes, the eponymous DADA magazine spotlights contemporary Black creatives from around the globe. We talk to the creative about opacity in the art world, Lagos’ dynamic art scene and upcoming artists on the DADA radar.
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Hi Oyinkansola, welcome to METAL! To get us started, can you introduce yourself and your work to us?
Hi METAL! I am the founder of DADA Gallery and I recently launched DADA Magazine.
As the moniker of both gallery and magazine, is there an origin behind the name Dada?
DADA is my last name so it only felt natural to use it for my work too. I think it’s cool that the name also has various meanings across different cultures. In Yoruba, the name is used to refer to children born with locs. Dada is also famously the name of a leftist art movement that represented a rejection of conventional ideals. I think the name carries a lot of radical energy which I think feels relevant to the gallery’s mission.
Lagos is said to be becoming one of the most dynamic art capitals on the continent. Would you say this vibrant art scene served as a muse for your work?
Yes Lagos has most definitely served as a muse for my work. It’s where I started putting on shows and I’d say it’s where most of my community is. A lot of the work I do now is shaped by my experiences being born and raised there. There is so much incredible energy and talent coming out of the city which serves as a source of constant inspiration for me.
What was the genesis of Dada magazine? How was this process of bringing this idea into actuality?
I speak about this in my editor’s letter in Issue 1 of the magazine. I wanted to create a publication that had Black artists and Black art as the core focus. There are not many publications committed to doing this and I wanted to contribute to closing that gap by highlighting some important contemporary voices in the scene. I also wanted to do more beyond the gallery’s four walls and I think a magazine is a great way to do some experimentation and engage with audiences across the spectrum, especially younger people who need help demystifying the art world. The idea is to make the art world more accessible, especially for those typically marginalised in the scene.
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Through the creation of virtual exhibitions, Dada gallery brought an experimental approach to the art scene. Is this innovation something you hope to continue within Dada magazine?
Yes I want to continue using technology and digital experimentation to connect with audiences across the board. I think it’s a great way of reducing the barriers to entry into the art world as galleries without permanent physical spaces are also able to participate. It also widens the amount of audiences that can engage as you don’t have to physically attend an exhibition to enjoy the works and discover new artists.
Presenting an immaculate spotlight on youth culture, Dada has addressed divisive issues such as sexuality, immigration, gender and more. Is it ever intimidating to veer away from more traditional topics within your work?
It hasn’t been intimidating to do this as I think it is important to speak about these topics. I think we all have a collective responsibility to speak up about pertinent issues in our society and thankfully I think the wider art world is starting to catch up. I think by virtue of working with young artists, the themes and issues that are relevant to them will always be relevant to DADA because their voices are at the core of DADA’s work.
Your work has created an enriching community for emerging Black creatives, is this a space you feel is currently lacking?
I think there is still a dearth of spaces for Black creatives in the diaspora. Being Nigerian and having engaged with various creative communities across Africa, living in London makes it clear that there isn’t as much representation here. My hope is that Black artists are able to feel like part of a global art community and there are no limits to entry and participation for them.
Did you have much of a creative upbringing or did this flourish in later years?
I don’t have a creative upbringing. A lot of it has been self learnt and self taught. In secondary school I realised I could draw but I never really saw a career in art as a viable choice due to my upbringing. Whilst at university in London, I would go to different exhibitions and volunteer at art fairs just to gain some experience in the art world. This led to me starting a blog where I would write about the art I was seeing and the books I was reading, all mainly related to Africa. This is how my interest in the arts flourished.
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Exclusivity and opacity in the art world breeds an inaccessible ecosystem for marginalised artists. Do you think there is an onus on influential gallerists and curators to challenge this?
I think there is an onus on gallerists and curators with influence to uplift underrepresented voices and create space for marginalised artists. This is the only way we can create a fair and equitable system for all.
What upcoming artists are on the Dada radar currently?
I currently work with some interesting artists such as Bunmi Agusto, Cameron Ugbodu, Samson Bakare, Okiki Akinfe and Djibril Drame.
Despite not being a conventional route into the creative world, do you feel your study of International Politics at King’s College London equips you with a beneficial outlook?
Yes I think it does as it provided me with a broader perspective and it has shaped the way I see the world and interact with different people.
Looking ahead as we enter 2023, what projects can we expect to see from Dada?
2023 is set to be an exciting year. I am looking forward to putting on some exciting exhibitions and working on Issue 2 of DADA Magazine. You can expect to see some exciting collaborations with artists and brands that align with our vision.
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