Yisa Akinbolaji

Photo credit: Yisa Akinbolaji’s website https://yisagallery.com/

by Olivia Barrett, Editorial Associate

Thursday 25 January 2024

On November 14, 2023, Winnipeg-based experimental artist Yisa Akinbolaji joined the distinguished group of Canadians appointed to the Order of Canada. He was recognized for his youth mentorship and innovations in the visual arts. Akinboljai invented his own base medium, Remoglue, a kind of removable glue. It is a new painting medium applied to a primed board or canvas to “mask off” certain areas, according to the Remoglue website. 

Throughout his career, Akinbolaji’s art has spanned several mediums from painting to printmaking to sculpture and installation. Akinboljai credits what he calls the “eclecticism and diversity” of his techniques to the combination of his Yoruba-African roots and his Western education.

Akinboljai’s work in the arts started long before migrating to Canada from Nigeria in 1997. He held his first exhibition at the National Museum in Lagos in 1984. Since then, he has held several art talks and workshops throughout his career and participating in over 50 art exhibitions.

In addition to these many endeavours in the arts, Akinboljai has received a variety of awards and honours over the years. In 2018, he received the Manitoba Premier’s Volunteer Service Award which acknowledges individuals who have improved the quality of life in their communities and in the province. He was also recognized by Minister Rochelle Squires at the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in April 2018. Akinboljai received the Manitoba 150 Award in 2020. This award honoured individuals from across Manitoba for their exemplary community service for the province’s 150th anniversary.

In 2021, Akinboljai became the first person in the Nigerian diaspora to be recognized as a cultural ambassador by the Ondo State of Nigeria. He received the Nigerian Professionals in Manitoba (NPIM) Community Leadership Award in that same year. In 2022, Akinboljai received the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for his immense contributions to the community in Manitoba.

Additionally, Akinboljai became the first Black artist to have their work displayed in the Senate of Canada in 2020. His artwork was also on display in the Canadian Parliament Chamber in Ottawa, Ont. on three different occasions in 2019, 2020 and 2023.

Beyond his awards and honours, Akinboljai is also the founder and coordinator of Creative Foundation Inc. in Winnipeg. Beginning in 1999, this organization engages professionals to help promote creative thinking to encourage the use of cultural creativity and innovative ideas in all parts of life. He also founded his own art studio in 1998, the Yisa Akinbolaji Art Studio. Akinboljai also served as a member of the Manitoba Arts Council for nine years to help promote everything from the study to the enjoyment to the production of arts in the province.