A brief biography of the artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven

Tunde FolawiyoThose with an interest in African art, like Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with the work of Prince Twins Seven-Seven (born Olaniyi Osuntoki). Prince was a Nigerian artist, who began his career in the early sixties. Over the years, he earned a reputation as the greatest representative of a school of painting known as Oshogbo. He was passionate about Yoruba culture, a fact which was reflected in the subject of his artwork.

Born in 1944, Prince’s spent his childhood and teens focusing on music and dancing. It was only as he entered his twenties that he began to develop a love for art. This came about after he travelled to Oshogbo and joined a school which was being run by a German linguist called Ulli Beier. It was here that Prince became interested in working with ink and pen, on paper and plywood.

Over the next 12 months, Prince exhibited his work around Nigeria, the USA and Czechoslovakia. He then went on to hold shows in Australia, Japan, Argentina, Cuba, Canada, Ghana and Finland. During the late eighties, after several years of travelling, he decided to move to the USA. This was one of the most difficult periods of his life, during which he created very little art, and experienced serious financial difficulties.

However, art lovers such as Tunde Folawiyo may recall that Prince made a comeback during the nineties, after a friend allowed him to use a spare room of his as an art studio. This eventually resulted in Prince exhibiting once again, and in 2000, his work was featured in the African Art wing of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. That same year, his pieces were also included in a show held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

Five years later, UNESCO named Prince as the 2005 Artist for Peace, in recognition of his contribution to the understanding of African culture. He received his award from Koichiro Matsuura, the Director of UNESCO, at a special ceremony which was attended by the President of Nigeria. Prince decided to move back to Nigeria in 2008; however, he did return to the USA one final time, in order to hold an exhibition during the summer of 2010. He passed away the following year, on the 16th of June.

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