29 Jan ART STUDENTS – BUNMI AGUSTO
Tell us about your background.
Bunmi Agusto: I was born in Lagos to Nigerian parents. I grew up the youngest of five children. I lived in Lagos then moved to Abuja for four years, then back to Lagos. Most of my education was in Lagos. I did my International Baccalaureate in England and I’m now currently studying Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.
What drew you to pursue an art degree?
BA: When I lived in Abuja my school had art exams but we didn’t do art as a course. Every year the same teacher would come and draw the same vase and tell us to draw it. I decided that I wanted to learn art outside my school, and I went for one class and came to decision that it was boring so I stopped. But, when I moved back to Lagos I picked it up again. My cousin, who is an artist, taught me and it stuck. Interestingly, while I was in Day Waterman College, the arts were very focused on being traditional and Nigerian, and so when I moved to Sevenoaks in England, I wanted to do the complete opposite. But, it turned out that in my attempts to be less African my work looked more African against the European style.
What was your parents’ reaction to it?
BA: Actually, I wanted to study Maths or Neuroscience, but my Dad told me not to waste his money that I should study something I know I can do well. So, he told me to study art. My mum tried to tempt me to study Computer Science, but I wasn’t interested, they told me to do what I can do well. They knew I was interested in Art, and knew that if I did it I would work hard, it won’t be something that I would dread.
Do you think there is a stigma around pursuing an art degree in the Afro-Caribbean society?
BA: Definitely. Every time I run into my friends’ parents and they ask me what am I studying and I say Fine Art they are like ‘oh Finance great’ and I correct them saying its Fine Art they respond ‘oh okay’. My Dad used to be like that but one of my sisters’ is a fashion designer, while the other is an illustrator and I have cousins who are directors and photographers; when he looked at it he realised that those are the people who are the most successful in their industries right now. So, he’s seen that it can be successful and lucrative so he’s fine with it now.
Do you worry about the future financially?
BA: The day before I started at Central Saint Martins I woke up and was like ‘Bunmi do you realise you chose to study Fine Art? What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ But, you just get used to it eventually. I’ve built up that confidence in myself and my work that I now believe I can make a career out of it. There is still that fear, I have a lot of artist friends who are amazing but are studying law, or getting two degrees to make sure they have a backup.
Which of your pieces are you most proud of?
BA: A piece I did ‘City Culture’. It’s one of those pieces that when you see it you wouldn’t think it’s mine. It was interesting to work because I was used to working with pastels when I paint so it gets a bit repetitive, so just using fabric was so interesting for me. It shook things up a bit, which is why I was very excited about it. It’s one of my favourite pieces aesthetically as well.
What would you say to someone who is considering pursuing an art degree but is afraid?
BA: Stay positive. A lot of people say that, but if you stay positive and tell yourself you can do it, it will work. Just keep working hard. If you do all of that you will be fine.
Here are some of Bunmi Agusto’s pieces: