Meeting Wareez Olamilekan Kareem at the Ayowole Academy of Arts at Oke-Odo community of Lagos was exciting. Kareem, who drew a portrait of the French President Emmanuel Macron, in this interview with Samuel Abulude, speaks on his dreams and encounter with the French President.
Can you tell me about yourself?
My name is Wareez Olamilekan Kareem. I am 11 years old, born on 14th of March, 2007. I am a pencil artist and prosthetic make-up artist. My father, Mutiu Kareem is a spare parts dealer at the Jankara. My mum, Zainab Olamilekan deals in soft drinks in Oshodi. I am the second child and have two sisters.
Which school do you attend? How did you start drawing and how did you become a hyperrealism artist?
I attend Oke-Odo Junior College and I am presently in JSS 1. I have been drawing since I was six years old. I started by drawing cartoons and comics that I see in the newspaper. I started drawing professionally when I was eight years old after joining the Ayowole Academy of Arts.
How did you get to know about the Ayowole Academy of Arts?
It was after school and I was going home. I met a Still-Life drawing composition going on and I joined bringing out my book to also make some drawings. The sister to the owner saw my seriousness and said, 'Ewo nka ti omo yii ya?' (meaning look at what this boy is drawing in Yoruba language). The owner, Uncle Ayodeji liked the way I was drawing and wanted to train me asking to join the academy. I was so happy that day.
Which year was that?
That was in 2016. I told my mum about it and I joined them the second day. I normally resume at the academy after school. I work from 3.30pm or 4pm to 6pm and sometimes 7pm. It was here that I learnt hyperrealism drawing.
What led to your being called to make a pencil drawing of the French President?
I have an Instagram account opened for me by Uncle Wole. Uncle Wole Adeniyi and uncle Aladeja Ayodeji are the owners of the art academy. So they saw my drawings and uncle Wole told me Eco Bank called and wanted me to do a painting of the French president who was coming to the Afrika Shrine.
When you got there and had to draw the portrait for two hours in front of a big crowd, how did you feel?
(Smiling) I felt nervous at first. I was afraid drawing in front of so many people at the Shrine. My legs shook. Standing to draw a realism painting of the president is the biggest that I have done in my life. Mr Banky W introduced me to the audience and took the portrait. After the drawing and it was presented to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, he held and thanked me. My Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode was also proud of me and said he would do something for me.
How did you feel after all these?
I felt very happy and excited.
Have you made paintings like this before a crowd?
No I haven't. But I have drawn before like this before the public. BBC came here too to interview me and I spoke as I drew the portrait. Also two television stations have interviewed me and I had to demonstrate what I loved doing.
Who is your favourite musician?
I like Olamide. I like his song, Shakiti Bobo and dance to the song as well. I also like Science Student.
How do you get inspiration to do what you do?
I draw inspiration from my environment, my surroundings, things that are going around me. The hyperrealism painting, 'Daily Bread' is an example. It shows a boy eating and crying at the same time. My family, my dad and mum has tried for me and my two sisters. They have always managed to take care of us and send us to school. My senior sister, Sherifat is 16 years old and has finished her secondary school. She is waiting to enter the higher institution. My junior sister, Fatia is ten years old.
How long did it take you to finish that painting, 'Daily Bread'?
It took me a month to finish the painting. I am attached to it because it is symbolic and shows the suffering of the young Nigerian child. We pray for a better Nigeria where every youth has a right to dream and aspire to be great and be anything in life.
What did the French President tell you?
He asked me where I learnt it. I told him I learnt it at the Ayowole Academy of Arts. The governor of Lagos state was also impressed with me and said that he must give me something. He said that he was going to help my family at the Academy. My mum told me that the governor promised me a scholarship.
What is your dream?
I want to be a great Artist in the Whole Wide World. I want to travel abroad and get exposed to the best training in the arts. I want to study abroad and be a painter. I want my work to be as big as 'Mona Lisa'. I want my paintings to be as valuable as Mona Lisa.