Israel Fatola had always suspected he was decent at drawing, perhaps even good. As a pupil, he always finished top of the class when it came to the arts: drawing, painting, sculpting. But it wasn’t until he observed the awe and fascination with which people everywhere looked at him and his work that he began to believe himself exceptional.
When he neared graduation from secondary school, it occurred to him that perhaps Mass Communication was not the course he wanted to go for. Perhaps he wanted to study in this field he was so good at.
“It was a very easy decision to make because I had an uncle who was also an artist, an established artist,” Fatola told me on the phone. “He’s been at the game for a very long time now.”
Knowing it was possible to practice Arts as a means of livelihood, he applied to the University of Lagos to study Visual Arts. It was there he decided to learn not just the craft but the business as well.
In 2018, Fatola had one of those spells that creatives go through where they are blank as to ideas for their next project. It was with that blank, hungry eye that he began to look at the world again. He knew there was an abundance of stories and narratives all around him, but he needed a deeper and more attentive eye to figure them out. And one day, he saw a small gathering of animals.
“There was the turkey, the goat, the ram,” he says, “and I was like, wow, these animals are so cordial to each other. If only we humans could actually be like this too.”
So, he began to take pictures of these animals, went back to the studio and embarked on a project of drawing them. Shortly before this, he had read a publication from the World Economic Forum, about how the actions and inactions of humans were causing a lot of harm to livestock especially through climate change and an increased emission of Co2.
“So, that was the backdrop of the inspiration behind the project. I felt like we needed to be more diverse, we need to consider other aspects of nature generally. You hear of all these wildfires, in the Amazon, for example, that killed so many animals who can’t even defend themselves. I felt compelled as an artist to create a segment in my portfolio to talk about it.”
He called the project The Family Photo Series. “It is a way to propagate the need for the preservation of cultural and common heritage and natural habitat, biodiversity,” he tells me. “Basically, just to foster the efficiency of cultural relations.”
Fatola has since developed a mental analogy from how nations all around the world are in constant clash with each other, how animals often co-exist peacefully in a way that eludes humans, how animals still get to be killed by humans. His aim with the project is to inspire humans to treat animals with more kindness, while learning peaceful co-existence from them.
Fatola has also executed several projects and has had several exhibitions. Some of his projects include documenting life and death, the reception and grief from humans following the death of a beloved. He is also interested in the existence of death as motivation to become better humans. He has sold at every exhibition he has had, with clients in Nigeria, and many more outside the country.
“One of the works in the series is currently showing in France, and I have some of them here with me in the studio,” he tells me.
It could take him anywhere from three weeks to six months to complete an art piece. “Where there is no break, and I draw nonstop because I’m feeling the work, it takes three weeks,” he says. Sometimes, he needs time away from a work in progress to gain clarity on how best to finish it.
“We need to consider all the complimentary aspects of nature, generally,” Fatola says. “Focusing on these animals that get maltreated by humans is a way to put that in focus.”
His aim with the project is to inspire humans to treat animals with more kindness, while learning peaceful co-existence from them.
“We need to be more biodiverse, and we need to consider all the complimentary aspects of nature, generally. So I started to focus on these animals that get to be maltreated by humans.”