Muraina Oyelami



Muraina Oyelami



Birth Date



Iragbiji, Nigeria

Biographical Text

Muraina Oyelami was born in Iragbiji, Nigeria in 1940. Known to some as a master painter and by others as a great performing artist, Oyelami is one of the original figures of the famous Oshogbo Art Movement. He began at the Art School in 1964, working in theatre as an actor and as a master Yoruba drummer. He also attended art workshops in painting and printmaking.

The themes in Oyelami's work are mainly derived from Yoruba culture. Fusing traditional motifs and legends with expressive modern lines and bold colour, Oyelami's works are a representation of his own experiences, stories, folktales and local landscapes.

Early reviewers of his artwork abroad compared it with that of Modigliani and Klee, and later Rouault. On hearing this comparison, he looked up these artists, and though admiring their work, he did not see the resemblance. He believed that he and the other Oshogbo artists were lucky not to have gone to art school and been influenced by these foreign artists, who may have hindered their development of their own style, techniques and ultimately identities. He said of the school “The importance of the art workshop to us was that it gave us a sense of our own identity.”

He studied technical theatre and specialized in theatre design at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, where he later taught traditional music from 1975 to 1987. He has exhibited his works and performed traditional and fusion music throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and USA.

Today, Oyelami is the chief of his village, a few miles outside Oshogbo. He still paints and exhibits widely. His varied and extensive list of credits include Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, Staatlichen Kunsthalle, Berlin, Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC and Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, to name a few.

Oshogbo Art School:

The West African city of Oshogbo, Nigeria, has been the traditional centre for the ancient Yoruba spirituality, language, and culture and, since the 1960s, the birthplace for much contemporary Nigerian art.

Following the country’s independence from the British empire in 1960, and the unrest of several military coups, a growth in cultural activity developed into a movement of modern art that would build on and continue the indigenous art traditions. Yoruba religion and customs, which had lost some prominence after centuries of both Christian and Muslim missions, was a great influence. Literary scholar Ulli Beier, his wife Georgina, and Suzanne Wenger were instrumental in stimulating and encouraging this rise in visual arts during their residencies in Nigeria.

The idea behind their Oshogbo art experiment was to bring together young, creative people without formal art training and encourage them to paint from their cultural heritage, but not merely to produce traditional art. Their activity ranged from painting and sculpture to music and theatre. The experiment was such a success that today Oshogbo is recognized as a major arts centre of Nigeria attracting international attention with its Oshogbo Art School, arts festivals, and an ever-growing group of artists.



“Muraina Oyelami,” Tyler Collection of Romanian and Modern Art: University of Tasmania, accessed August 11, 2022,