Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya—known as Akirash—creates immersive experiences that explore contemporary issues and subjective experiences relating to identity, immigration, race, religion, and gun violence. Akirash uses mixed media, including repurposed objects, to create installations, painting, sculpture, video, photography, soundscapes, and performances.
Olaniyi’s work has been shown worldwide from Capetown, Yangon, and Toronto to his adopted home of Austin, Texas, where his use of discarded materials has earned him the city’s Net-Zero Hero award. In addition to its ecological value, upcycling provides a way for the viewer to connect. “Through the use of repurposed materials, I enjoy bringing the past into the present,” says Akirash. “The use of old things and vintage materials allows us to quickly connect to the works on view. Seeing these items in new ways makes us pause. It gives us a reason to spend more time with the artwork. The items bring up a memory. A conversation can start from there.”
The works might prompt conversations about the contrast between rural and urban life, the accelerated pace of development, the invisible systems of power that govern everyday existence, and the trauma that results. A recent installation “Majele” (Venomous) spoke to the forced separation of families at the Mexico-United States border in its blood-red explosion of shoes, telephone receivers dangling from cords, and a raft caught in the middle of a bisected space.
“I believe art is an instrument to question and search for solutions,” says Akirash, “to dig out the truth without violence. Ultimately, my work is designed to create comfort, peace, and solace. I believe that art can be a balm to the soul, revealing a quiet inner truth.”
Akirash earned his first degree in biochemistry from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta in Nigeria (1991) and later studied Fine and Applied Art at the Institute of Textile Technology Art and Design in Lagos (1995). Akirash moved to the United States in 2011. He is the recipient of the Innovative Artist Award from Mid America Artist Alliance (MAAA/NEA) and the Pollock Krasner Foundation Award, among many others.