Suraj Adekola

Contemporary Artist


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Suraj Adekola, born 1983, is a Nigerian artist living in Manchester, UK. Suraj's work is informed by the post-colonial narratives of social theorists such as Stuart Hall, Franz Fanon, Philip D. Morgan, Sean Hawkins, and Kehinde Andrew. Through painting, installation, and drawing, he uses elements of contemporary and historical material to explore the themes of migration, diversity, inclusivity, identity, and globalisation. 


The exploration of the themes started due to a culture shock he experienced during his first night in the UK, as he experienced a severe cold that lasted for a week. The event makes him contemplate the experience of Blacks who were dislocated during the colonial era and how they survived the severe cold weather. This led him to think about the resilience of black people and ways in which Black identity could be sustained and promoted through art.


During his postgraduate studies in contemporary fine arts at the University of Salford in 2021, Suraj began to repurpose a traditional Adire (tie-dye) fabric as a surface for his paintings and as a major medium that serves as his visual language. Adire is an indigenous and popular indigo-tie-dyed fabric decorated with a resist-dying technique to create striking patterns, made in his hometown of Egbaland, Abeokuta, the capital of Adire-making in Nigeria. Adire fabric became part of the ways in which Suraj defines and firmly establishes his identity as Black. Suraj uses materiality to enable audiences to experience the complexities of identity through the materials. Suraj believes that material can connect us to home or to another landscape, and it can reinforce a sense of identity and belonging.


We should all be Black series

In We Should All Be BlacksI explore the intricate relationship between Blackness and Britain, drawing from postcolonial theories and historical material. Central to my work is an examination of colonialism's lingering effects on cultural identity within Black Atlantic communities. Through visual culture and historical narrative, I illuminate the enduring legacies of oppression and resilience. 


This series serves as a visual dialogue between past and present, blending contemporary expression with historical references to evoke connection and dislocation. Using Adire fabric, I weave narratives of fragility, diversity, and unity, symbolizing the resilience of Black identity. Employing Cubist-inspired techniques, I manipulate the fabric to reflect cultural hybridity and Pan-Africanism. 


As a Nigerian artist in the UK, my work reflects a love for my Yoruba culture while resonating with universal experiences of cultural adaptation. I challenge conventional notions of identity and representation, inviting viewers to reconsider their relationship to history, migration, and the ongoing struggle for cultural preservation.


Water No Get Enemy, Ye

In this series, Water No Get Enemy, Ye, I examine the interplay of personal experience and memories, historical contexts, and the process of learning about myself and how I coexist with the world.



I draw inspiration from Nigerian musical influences such as Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Afrobeat anthem “𝗪𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗡𝗼 𝗚𝗲𝘁 𝗘𝗻𝗲𝗺𝘆,” which emphasises resilience and unity with the line “Water e no get enemy,” and Burna Boy’s introspective track “Ye,” with the line "𝗬𝗲, 𝗬𝗲, 𝗬𝗲, 𝗬𝗲, 𝗬𝗲, 𝗬𝗲, 𝗬𝗲,”.


Through a fusion of artistic expression and cultural symbolism, I sought to capture the essence of the journey towards self-discovery and one’s place within the broader societal landscape.


While I was making this series, I was thinking a lot about the significance of materiality, particularly the traditional Adire (tie-dye) fabric, as a conduit for cultural memory. Incorporating Adire into the paintings symbolises a tether to heritage and tradition, anchoring the artwork in the rich tapestry of Nigerian culture.


The use of lines to draw faces within the compositions reflects the fluidity of migration, echoing the movement and transitions experienced both personally and within broader societal contexts.


This series, ‘Water No Get Enemy, Ye,’’ invites viewers to contemplate the complexities of migration, identity, memory, and the ever-evolving relationship between self and society.


Same Faces, Different Background

Same Faces, Different Background, is a remarkable endeavour that resonates with the values of the organisations that work to prevent wars and promote peace worldwide. This piece is 195 pieces, each representing a different country. This project showcases the power of art to promote peace and unity on a global scale. 


The project's profound message emphasises that, despite our diverse backgrounds and beliefs, we all share the same human face. It serves as a poignant commentary on the ongoing conflicts in the world, such as the war between Hamas and Israel, encouraging a vision of harmony and understanding. This project undoubtedly aligns with the missions of international organisations such as the United Nations (UN), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the African Union (AU); and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). There are a few key international bodies that work to prevent wars and promote peace worldwide. It is to foster meaningful dialogue and promote a more peaceful world through artistic expression.

My creative process

Prints are available.

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