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11-Year-Old Kareem Waris Olamilekan is Painting his Way to Greatness

by Eva Rose Tesfaye on June 19, 2018

Kareem Waris Olamilekan, also known as Waspa Art, is Nigeria’s youngest hyperrealist artist. At just 11-years-old, Kareem is painting and drawing portraits that are impressing artists around the world.

Kareem started drawing professionally at the age of 8 and is self-taught. He started drawing cartoons before that at the age of 6. He started by watching other artists when his family moved houses and he discovered Ayowole Art Vocational Academy.

“I found an artist in our new house. So, I saw the apprentice of @ayowole art drawing still life and I spoke with one of them who asked if I could draw and I told him yes,” Olamilekan said in a recent interview. “Later that day, the already registered students started drawing a “composition of kettle and headphones…so I stood at a corner and participated with them.”

When the boss of the apprentices saw the work he did with the others, he was impressed and told him to join the academy.

One of the biggest challenges however to his drawing was getting the money to buy the materials he needed. He says that sometimes when his mother gave him money to buy groceries he would secretly buy 20 leaves so he could draw. Kareem would also draw and paint with a flashlight in the middle of the night because there was no electricity in his home.

He mainly does painting pen drawings, pencil drawings, and wall art, but practices others as well, including prosthetic make-up, in hopes of one day becoming a great artist. His boss lets him help with the murals that he is contracted to do.

Kareem lives with his mother and two siblings. His mother hawks drinks on the street of Nigeria while his father sells spare parts. His family is incredibly encouraging of him and his art though, despite Kareem’s newfound fame, they are still struggling to make a living. The support from his family is important because it changes the narrative that is popular in Nigeria that parents should expect their children to become doctors or lawyers.

Kareem is showing that one can make a living doing what they love. He advocates for youth empowerment giving his opinion in a recent interview. “I think the government should go round or appoint people who can go across Nigeria to look for kids and youths with rare talent. Then they can be shown support by training them so we can have the best people coming out of our country.”

Kareem is painting his way to greatness. His plan is to finish school, grow, and become an expert in his craft. He currently does commissions and portraits. Those who live in Nigeria can call him at the numbers listed on his Instagram, @waspa_art, and commission a painting or drawing.

Kareem has immense confidence in his talent and will keep doing art for a long time. The artist’s Instagram bio reads, “I am waspa the bitty artist, art is my calling, it’s in me,” the last line being a reference to what his boss told him at Ayowole Academy of art when he saw his work for the first time.

On his Instagram you can find videos of him drawing and pictures of his work. Mostly these are portraits that show off the beauty of Nigerian people. Kareem says that one day he wants his work to be in galleries and museums.

Featured Image via Max Pixel

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Eva Rose Tesfaye
Eva Tesfaye has traveled around the world her whole life but thinks of Africa as home. She loves reading novels and watching plays (especially ones with people of color in them). She has a love-hate relationship with her big curly hair.
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