Yisa Akinbolaji is an interdisciplinary artist and youth advocate who is active and celebrated in and beyond Winnipeg, Canada. Yisa's painting technique has inspired the production of Remoglue for contemporary painting. He has conducted workshops for professionals in the technique using the flexible gum.
Yisa is the founder of the Creative Foundation, Winnipeg. The organization is established to enlist distinguished professionals to empower and motivate the youth of different cultural background and social groups for their academic success through mentoring programs in the arts, creative thinking, human rights, sciences and computer technology. Yisa believes that humanity's best future lies in the hands of today's children, hence they should be properly nurtured and encouraged to develop the spirit of service to humanity.
As an artist, Yisa explores and uncovers the possibilities of creative expression, combining various art expertise and endeavours to expand the dialogue within social and contemporary art spaces. His Yoruba-African roots and Western education reflect the eclecticism of his artistic development. Yisa, an MFA graduate of the University of North Dakota creates in a shifting dynamic between the foreground and background forms for the audiences' participation - engaging them in the upside-down thinking process, a vehicle that then draws the viewers into the social message of his work.
Yisa was born in Ondo, Nigeria and moved to Canada in 1997. While he was seven years old, he had to develop the ability to improvise by using any pigment available to express himself indoors - using from his mother's traditional eyebrow pencils (Tìro) and charcoal from her firewood to make drawings. This was because he and children of that period had to forfeit playing outdoor in the evening after half-day at school to prevent any injury from bomb explosions during the Biafran civil war. Yisa's childhood experience with improvisation and the formal art education he later received have now resulted in his own unique base medium and his innovative painting technique. "I love mystery more than magic because mystery does not have an answer. That is the reason I'm fascinated at the thought of the origin of the universe or the dexterity at which a tiny insect could weave complex silk. My passion for experimentation and knowledge of materials have resulted in my own unique base medium to the advantage of my current creations. Since this new process expresses my playfulness, it is not unusual for viewers to perceive abstraction within the reality that I present until they have arrived at the intended destination with me. " Yisa says.
For more than three decades, he has enjoyed extensive art practice, working in a variety of media: (oil, acrylic, printmaking, metal sculpture and installation) and exhibiting in solo and group art exhibitions. His solo exhibitions include: Who is In and Who is Out, My Language Space, My Black-Etched Pot and Dance Out of Injustice. Yisa's major solo exhibitions have been held in Canada, the United States and Nigeria. In Canada, the public galleries in which his works have been exhibited are: Joseph D. Carrier Gallery (group), Winnipeg Art Gallery (group), Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre (solo) and Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery (group and solo).
Yisa is a past president of the Manitoba Society of Artists (2001-2003). He was appointed to the board of the Manitoba Arts Council in 2010 serving until 2019. Yisa was recognized at the Canadian Parliament Chamber in Ottawa on February 27, 2019 by Senator Patricia Bovey for his outstanding innovative painting technique. Senator Patricia Bovey, a former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery also presented an account of a painting, "Stolen Identity" created by Yisa. Yisa has also been recognized at the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Canada on the 11th of April 2018 by Minister Rochelle Squires for his artistic contributions and volunteering services to the province. On November 20, 2018, Yisa received Role Model Award from the Conflict and Resilience Research Insititute, Canada and was recognized as chief guest during the first "Participatory Peace Painting Icebreaker" of the institution. Yisa has been a Juror of Artist in Community Residency and the Community Connection for the Manitoba Arts Council in 2010, an advisory member of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation “CBC ARTSPOTS” 2007, and a guest speaker at the Canadian Association of Planning Students Annual Conference at the University of Manitoba (2007).
Before his MFA program in Printmaking, Painting and Art History at the University of North Dakota, Yisa has been educated in Canada (Diploma in Graphic Design, Red River College) and Nigeria (Higher National Diploma- Painting, Yaba College of Technology).
As the first child of thirteen children, his creative imagination first began to develop from the Yoruba folktales and allegories which he heard from elders. As he became a professional artist, his art concept started to evolve from extended sources and from his imagination. Yisa's engagement with art at the age of six and seven minimized the fear, which most children encountered during the period of Biafran-Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970. His passion for method and materials has resulted in the discovery of flexible gum, "Remoglue", which is developed from his personal experimentation.
A good foundation for his professional career began with his first solo art exhibition at the National Museum Onikan, Lagos in 1984, which is documented on page 81 of Nigerian Artists: A Who's Who & Bibliography a publication of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Washington DC in 1993. Between 1988 and 1997, Yisa taught Fine Art at the Lagos State Model College, Badore. In 1988 and 1989, he was adjunct Drawing and Painting Lecturer at Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Ijanikin, with Prof. Deinde Agoro as Head of Department.
Yisa's exhibitions have been reviewed and featured in many newspapers, art magazines, radios and televisions. In November 2011, Yisa was featured on the cover of Art Business News, New York for his recognizable technique.
Yisa's work is in the collections of the province of Manitoba, Great-West Life, Cargill Limited, the University of North Dakota, private collections of many valued collectors including several diplomats around the world.
The Creative Foundation Inc, Winnipeg which Yisa established has inspired some youth who have gone on to become surgeons, artists, technologists and are involved in charity works globally: www.creativefoundation.org