Criticism Ensues as Nigerian Artist Faces Backlash over Racist Themes in ₦64m Painting

Olaolu Akeredolu-Ale, also known as Olaolu Slawn, is receiving criticism for his artwork “The Three Yoruba Brothers,” which sold for £31,750 (about ₦64 million) at a Sotheby’s auction in the UK.

The work has been chastised for spreading racist tropes and appealing to a Western stereotype of people of African heritage.

The painting depicts three hideous-looking monkeys with enormous lips: Alara, Ajero, and Orangun. Depicting black people with exaggerated facial characteristics or as monkeys in Western culture has long been considered racist dehumanization.

However, as old posts by Slawn on X (now Twitter) resurfaced, critics claim that the tropes shown in the picture are meant to dehumanize.


In one of the old posts he said, “Nigeria is really nigger area.” In another, he said, “I’m making an app where white people can pay to call me nigger anonymously.”

After a user on X posed the question, “Who is your target audience?” Slawn replied “Racists.”

In response to the backlash Slawn said on X, “you lot are fuckin neeks u know and ima make sure my son and my girlfriend never see poverty or stress, ima see to it that all of u that are praying on my downfall so u can witness my family suffer will see, I’ll put it in your faces everyday, watch me.”

In his catalog note for “The Three Yoruba Brothers”, he said, “I am not just Nigerian. I am Yoruba. This work is an expression of my identity.

Despite facing criticism, he has emerged as a rising voice in the contemporary African art scene by catering to a predominantly white audience.

In 2022, his artwork, “Bobo n Jarrad Go To Church,” sold for £27,720 (about ₦30 million) at Sotheby’s, despite its initial price of £7,000. Skepta, the rapper, sold “Bobo n Jarrad Go To Church” as part of his Contemporary Curated art collection.


Slawn, who was born in Lagos but now lives in the UK, gained to prominence for his graffiti street art but has quickly moved into the mainstream European art scene. Last year, Slawn was commissioned to design the annual BRIT Awards statue.

Following his 2022 debut at Sobethy’s, Slawn staged an exhibition titled “On A Darker Note” at the Efie Gallery in Dubai, featuring 12 of his paintings.

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