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Obida Obioha, the creative director for the O’DA brand uncovers the dream behind his art and design portfolio in this encounter with Yinka Olatunbosun.

Obida Obioha, the creative director of a number of design related enterprises: ODA Art (art advisory), O’DA (Interior Design) and Obida.Store (Product and fashion design) is born of an intriguing personality: calm, focused and of course cultured. With a strong desire to spread beauty and wellness into people’s lives, Obioha channelled his love for creativity into a multi-business brand that brings beauty and wellness into people’s lives.

Trained at Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan where he obtained a Master’s degree in interior design and a diploma in product design, Obioha has a sharp eye for design that works by fusing African aesthetics with  contemporary designs.

His foray into art is like a departure from his earlier education. Instead of following in his mother’s footsteps into legal practice, he studied economics for his first degree and earned a Master’s degree in finance. 

“Ending up in the arts and interior design has been quite the departure from where I began,” he says. “But it is, as they say, you end up exactly where you are meant to be and I am very happy I have ended up here.”

As a child, he was fascinated by his mother’s incredible sense of style. He learnt all about what looks good from this early stage and gained confidence in his creative energy.


“In reality, I was guided subtly, and not so subtly by two incredible artists who later became friends and now family; Alimi Adewale and Isaac Emokpae.  Isaac foresaw that I would end up in art and gently mentored me towards it and Alimi took a chance on me and was kind enough to grant me my first art salon and, as they say, the rest is history.”

At first, he started with interior design and seeing how art can transform even the best designed space,  he developed an interest in collecting art.


“Through people’s reaction to seeing art in my home, I realised people were looking to experience art in a different way,” he continues. “I saw that people wanted to experience art in relatable spaces, not necessarily the typical white cube template of traditional art galleries. In coming up with the initial idea for O’DA Art Gallery, I wanted to create a space where all your senses are peaked from the moment you walk in; from the smell of the gallery, to the calming surroundings and breath-taking art on the walls. I wanted to bring the change I myself desired to see in the art industry.”

Still, Obioha has some hurdles to cross in the art scene. Aside from existing competitions, he had to work hard to build new relationships with artists, many of whom are wary of exploitation.


“Honestly, I think the art industry in Lagos, in Nigeria really has suffered from many bad actors in the past. Many artists have been maltreated and cheated by previous art dealers, and so, a lot of times, when we start working with a new artist, there’s a mistrust at the start, but it often melts away once they see what we are about.”

The brand name O’DA is drawn from Yoruba words that means “it is good.” In order to live up to the name of the brand, Obioha ensures that the visitors at the gallery enjoy every bit of the visual experience. Sometimes, he’d stand back and watch quietly as every individual responds to the artworks. Perhaps, that’s how he takes his mental note. The lush garden behind the gallery space is the home of metal sculptures, each telling deep cultural narratives.

“We aim to provide a positive experience all round, from our interactions with our artists to the experience we provide our guests,” he explains.

Panning away from the feedback, Obioha has to make his own judgement as well. A piece of work would strike a chord in him before any conversation starts.


But how does he decide on what piece of art to collect? “This is a very tough question; how do you articulate ‘magic’? I can’t describe it other than a quickening of the pulse, a quiet voice that tells you this is something special. And I do best when I listen to that voice.

I believe the best way to discover an artist is through their work; I have often gone searching for artists after first seeing their work and want to discover more. Who created this? What is their practice about? Where do they want to go next? Can we assist in that journey? Once I find myself asking these questions of a particular artist and their work, I know I’ve found that ‘magic’.”


Beyond hosting exhibitions, touring the gallery at O’DA is a therapy of sorts. For those people who place a great value on critical thinking and ideas, having such a peaceful ambience to walk around, sit and soak in art pieces is surely bound to be a rewarding experience. Situated in Victoria Island, the gallery is a great stop-over point between office hours or at the close of business.

“Like I said earlier, my vision has always been to create a space where people can experience art differently,” he adds. “Art is so much more than canvas on walls; art has the power to create an oasis, a respite and at O’DA Art we try to create an oasis right in the centre of busy Lagos. We have spent some time setting the stage for this and in the near future we intend to take it to the next level by curating experiences. We plan to curate experiences where our guests have the opportunity to experience culture and share knowledge from across the globe. 

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“We also have plans to host art education and practical workshops to deliver  immersive experiences. At O’DA Art, we are passionate about contributing towards the growth of the arts in our society, thus we also have plans to host fundraising events that will garner funds for the development of art programmes for the next generation of artists and lead to the ultimate growth of our phenomenal creative industry.”

Having lived and studied in Milan, Obioha offers some insights into building an ecosystem of creatives around art, design and fashion. “In addition to founding the gallery and an interior design firm called Obida Design Associates, I also have an eponymous fashion and product line that seeks to share our vision of modern contemporary African design with the world.”


“I previously co-founded ‘Grey’, a fast fashion womenswear label with Rukky Ladoja which we ran for over ten years. I can definitely say that the industry has evolved since we started that venture over 15 years ago. There is so much more collaboration and a redefinition of what fashion is. Our focus now on African culture and home grown materials play a large role in this and it can only lead to us having a greater presence on the global stage. It goes without saying that there are still a lot of infrastructural setbacks trying to operate manufacturing in Nigeria, and I can just imagine how much bigger we would be with the right tools, support and incentives.”

As a gallery owner, Obioha invests his time and effort in documentation. Equipped with transferable skills in other sectors, he approaches gallery management with financial intelligence. 


“The benefit of having started my career in investment banking is that I came into art and design with an insight on how to properly run a business; but more than that, because we are often acting on behalf of artists, there is a greater need for us to be accountable and to have proper records to ensure we are taking care of the trust they have put in us.”

To build a network of creatives, Obioha has collaborated with other spaces such as the Nordic Villa Hotel on Victoria Island. “We have held exhibitions which allow us to showcase art for a different audience,” he discloses. “We also collaborate with other curators in order to diversify our voice. Our next show is with Seun Alli of JCCA, a great curator with a keen eye, she is allowing us to work with younger artists who we know are going to be great.”

To build a network of creatives, Obioha has collaborated with other spaces such as the Nordic Villa Hotel on Victoria Island. “We have held exhibitions which allow us to showcase art for a different audience,” he discloses. “We also collaborate with other curators in order to diversify our voice. Our next show is with Seun Alli of JCCA, a great curator with a keen eye, she is allowing us to work with younger artists who we know are going to be great.”

When he is not rotating on the tripod of interior design, art and product design, Obioha works out at the gym or plays tennis.


“A typical day for me starts early, before 6am. I journal and set my plan for the day. I split my time between the gallery, site work, talking to suppliers and clients and working with my incredible team. I try to leave work at 6pm, get home, wind down and go to bed early.

“People often think I have a very active social life, but unfortunately that’s a lie! I am extremely boring. But very blessed.”

Source: THIS DAY

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