He is called Timi Light. That, of course, is not his real name. But, for the 24-year-old Efon Alaye, Ekiti State-born visual artist, dancer and singer, the moniker is metaphorically speaking the guiding light of his creative life.
Born as the last born of Elder and Mrs Lawrence Oni, Joseph Oluwatimilehin Oni had always had a thing for drawing the things he noticed around him as a child. This penchant gradually resolved itself into the production of childish comics, which he sold to his classmates. “Sometimes I wonder how the kids came to fall in love with those comics,” he says. “Surprisingly, they were willing to use their lunch money to buy my drawings.”
Yet, the visual arts – which, he assures his interviewer, remains his strongest means of self-expression – is competing with his other interests: music and dance. Dancing, he says, while he was still attending Sunday school lessons in his church’s children’s department. There, the children were taught choreography lessons during which he easily outshone others. As a result, he was always positioned to lead the church dance troupe’s every presentation. As for singing, the ability came to him in a eureka! moment while he was a secondary school student at Dele International College in the Ondo State town of Fagun. “I then used to have a friend, who stimulated my ability to sing,” he discloses.
Back to his love for the visual arts. It progressed to his studying at Adeyemi Federal University in Ondo (which is affiliated to Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State), where he has since graduated with a degree in fine arts.
Though he enjoyed the full support of his parents while studying art, his choice of this vocation was met with doubts from certain quarters. This was especially since they thought art wouldn’t be as profitable as other professions. But then, the decision was his to make.
Art, Timi Light firmly believes, is his calling. He recalls once leaving a secondary school because they no longer had a fine art teacher.
He first heard about Life in My City Art Festival through a colleague during his undergraduate years, Emmanuel Dare Idowu. “The guy wouldn’t let a day pass without telling us about LIMCAF (the acronym for Life in My City Art Festival).”
Talking about Emmanuel Dare Idowu, he was the winner of this year’s Dr Pius Okigbo Prize for Technical Proficiency. Oni, a. k. a. Timi Light, was finally convinced to participate in this year’s edition of the annual festival cum competition. At first, he didn’t expect to win any prize. But, he later began to hope for a consolation prize, which didn’t come.
Undeterred, his sights are already set on the next edition, which he hopes will show him how deeply he could think.
On the level he sees himself attaining in the next five years, he says he wishes to hold a solo exhibition outside Nigeria.