NIGERIA: 11-year-old genius who is inspired by Michelangelo

“We used to tell him don’t see yourself like a roadside artist.
Believe you can have a name like
Michelangelo, like da Vinci.”
– Adeniyi Adewole 

“The sweat on it symbolizes hard work and struggling. And the spoon symbolizes food. Everybody in my society has little now, on my streets, they struggle, struggle, they sweat for their eats.”
– 11-year-old Waris Kareem Olamilekan, artist 

Waris Kareem Olamilekan, an 11-year-old artist, is fast becoming a sensation in Nigeria’s capital, Lagos.

The boy is creating waves with his unique creations and is becoming a global sensation. From a makeshift studio in a poor neighbourhood in Lagos, Waris Kareem produces incredibly life-like works of art.

With President Macron and the portrait he did in just 2 hours

The international art world is taking note of his hyper realistic portraits and skilled drawings. The boy recently received the praise of French President Emmanuel Macron during the latter’s visit to Fela Kuti’s New Africa Shrine in Lagos on Tuesday, July 3.

Young Waris, who says he draws inspiration from artists like Michelangelo and fellow Nigerian portraitist Arinze Stanley Egbengwu, managed to produce a stunning portrait of Macron in just two hours.

Olamilekan works from a makeshift art studio in a poor neighborhood in Lagos, where he primarily uses pencil to create detailed portraits of friends, family, and the famous. He also occasionally incorporates ballpoint pen, paint, and pastels into his drawings.

Referring to his favourite creation so far, depicting a sweating boy in the process of eating, Waris comments: “The inspiration behind it is what’s going on around me, especially my family,” says the boy. “The sweat on it symbolizes hard work and struggling. And the spoon symbolizes food. Everybody in my society has little now, on my streets, they struggle, struggle, they sweat for their eats.”

Young Kareem Olamilekan attends the local Ayowole Academy of Art, created by graduate art student Adeniyi Adewole.

“He can go far, farther than even beyond our expectations because I believe with what he has been doing, he’s going somewhere greater,” Adewole says. “We used to tell him don’t see yourself like a roadside artist. Believe you can have a name like Michelangelo, like [Leonardo] da Vinci.”

And if young Waris Kareem Olamilekan has anything to say about it, that’s exactly what will happen.

Below is a short BBC report on the boy genius. 

For an extended insight into the work of young Waris, click here.