Muraina Oyelami (b. 1940, Iragbiji, Nigeria) is a pioneer artist of the Osogbo Art Movement and Eesa of Iragbiji. Oyelami’s journey as a visual artist began with the Mbari-Mbayo art workshop by Professor Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier in 1964. The workshop encouraged young people without formal art education to explore visual art and paint from the heart.
Oyelami embraced the ideas of the Osogbo experiment — creating art from his inner mind without the constraint of formal training. In doing so he established himself as one of the most prominent Osogbo artists of his generation. “Making a painting is really like going into a strange place, like an unknown territory and then you have nothing but your own integrity to guide you…The importance of the art workshop to us was that it gave us a sense of our own identity.”
Before launching a career in the visual arts, Oyelami was a founding member of the late Duro Ladipo Theatre Company performing as an actor and musician. He later attended the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), studying technical theatre with a specialization in theatre design and received a certificate in dramatic arts. Oyelami also taught traditional music and dance at Obafemi Awolowo University between 1976 to 1987.
Oyelami’s paintings portray themes influenced by Yoruba culture, and his ideas about people, urban growth and rekindling positive values into our ways of life. He explores the festivals, traditions and myths of Yoruba culture as well as incorporating their facial features and tribal marks.
His works have been featured in Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Staatlichen Kunsthalle, Berlin; Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Bonhams Auction and ART X Lagos.