<span>Sam Ovraiti</span>

By the early 1990s Ovraiti had gained a reputation as probably the best water colour painter in Nigeria. He was at the time an art lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi. He was part of a thriving art scene in Auchi, with fellow lecturers Duke Asidere and Ben Osagahe and recent graduates Alex Nwokolo and Pita Ohiwerei. Ovraiti with his easy charm became the face of Auchi as they invaded the Lagos art scene with their colour-suffused artworks.

His water colours were subtle, refined takes on the Auchi landcape where he lived and worked – the livestock, the small, idyllic houses, the farms, the farmers and the market women. Like Auchi, his water colours were peaceful and contemplative, seducing the viewer into these somnolent scenes. While his water colours represented life in Auchi, the colours were otherworldly abandoning the earth colours of Africa for something more complex and dreamlike.

Ovraiti was born in Zaria in 1961. His early education was in Warri in Edo State. He Joined the art department of the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, graduating in 1983. He eventually joined the faculty as an art lecturer. He quickly become a focal point for the new group of Auchi artists. He was gregarious and eager to help – qualities that attracted other budding artists to him.

In 1993, he left Auchi and moved to Lagos to practice art full-time. He also decided to focus less on water colours which had defined his early years. From that point on, he would explore oils and mixed media. The main idea remained the same though. His art was, at its core, an exploration of colour in all its complexity and glory.

He would explore the landscapes and seascapes of Lagos, as well as its inhabitants. While his subject matter would vary, his focus would remain an exploration of colour and its profound effect on consciousness.

He would go on to work closely with the Harmattan workshop, helping the organisation coordinate its workshops. For an artist that had always thrived on interaction, this was an ideal opportunity for creative osmosis. In some sense, a return to Auchi where he had encouraged, inspired and shared.

Ovraiti still works in Lagos mostly, his themes keep changing, but his quest for the perfect expression of the wonder of colour remains.


Illuminating Blackness



Four days – Day 4 – Sam Ovraiti