Ayobola Kekere-ekun FULL-TIME STUDENT, PART-TIME ARTIST
Ayobola Kekere-ekun, born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, is an artist and currently doing her PhD in Art and Design, full-time, at UJ’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture. She plans to complete it this year (2022). Ayobola started her professional art practice in 2014. “I’m at a point in my career where my work is starting to gain traction and I have the luxury of being picky about the projects and engagements I take on. Yet I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be. I think I’m at a point where my ambition is as boundless as my gratitude,” she says. The sense of community and support at UJ, particularly from her supervisors Professors Brenda Schmahmann and Deirdre Pretorius, has been a big part of what has enabled her as a student and
an artist, she says. “I can’t claim I’ve always done a stellar job of balancing the two, but having such a solid support system has been invaluable,” she says. Professor Schmahmann is also the chairperson of art and visual culture in the SA Research Chairs Initiative, and runs weekly seminars for project members. “It’s a chance to grapple and engage with some really interesting research, but for me, as a foreign student, it was also a lifeline, especially when I first moved to South Africa. I got to tap into a network of really wonderful people and I’ve made some of the best friendships of my life here. My experience has shown me that rigorous scholarship can be fostered in a space of kindness,” Ayobola says. Born in 1993, Ayobola says education is very important to the average Nigerian, and her family is no exception. “Not attending university was never really an option. I was one of those kids who actually liked school and enjoyed learning new things.” When she was in secondary school, she wanted to study architecture. “Two years before graduation I realised I was more interested in visual communication and design, so I changed tack and I’ve been studying that ever since.” She puts her success down to “a combination of curiosity and stubbornness”. “A question or idea that intrigues me will have me unravelling every possible thread until I’m satisfied.” Ayobola completed her BA, and her MA in visual arts. She is currently completing her PhD in Art and Design and Architecture at UJ.
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