Onidiri is in summary a discovery. It is about a woman looking back on her childhood and telling you about a truly peculiar African experience.
Josephine Chidebe and Precious Igbava
A thorough bred Nigerian from Ekiti State, Olubukola Bolarinde studied Architecture at Welsh School of Architecture, University of Wales, Cardiff.
She obtained her Masters Degree in Environmental Design and Engineering from the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, after which she expanded her work portfolio by touring the world before returning to Nigeria to kick-start her career in Architecture.
In this chat, the architect, self-taught artist, writer, and producer opens up on his career and new movie, Onidiri, which will premiere soon in Lagos.
Tell us more about yourself
I was seconded to Standard Chartered Bank where I worked as project manager for a couple of years. We had several projects in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos and I handled them all from concept to execution. This began my foray into project management, which I found quite interesting. I was able to excel at it primarily because of my background in Architecture. That leverage made me a particularly good project manager. It meant that the work moved faster and decisions were taken a lot quicker for the execution of projects, because I had the expertise.
The journey took me from there to the oil and gas industry where I worked with Zenon Petroleum & Gas Limited for about six to seven years, first as a project manager responsible for the company’s divestment into the real estate sector and later as the Managing Director of FO Properties Limited, a subsidiary company where I was privileged to help build an enviable multi-million dollar property portfolio.
From Zenon, I moved to the telecom industry, working as the head of real estate in Sub-Saharan Africa, for a global industry leader. I have always worked in the real estate space. However, I am a self-taught artist and I am very well interested in all forms of expressive arts. I liked to think of myself as a singer but not anymore though, I used to sing in the choir back in school and I was also a member of the Lagos Community Gospel Choir. I believe in every form of art as a means of self-expression. I have a certain type of innate interest in it but more importantly, I am a visual artist. At a time, I started painting because I had a flair for it. I was good at Fine Art in school, but I was not a professional artist. I started painting, working with acrylic on canvas, playing with oil on canvass and some pieces turned out well. I used to take them to Nike Arts Gallery, they are very good friends of mine and even though nobody was going to buy them, we would put red stickers on them and hang them on the wall so they tell everyone who walks in that the paintings were sold. I was just experimenting and that went very well.
Did customers believe that the paintings were really sold?
It is a tradition in art that whenever there is a red sticker on a piece, it means the piece has been sold. It was just for laughs, nothing serious. Here I was, this amateur artist who was pretending to be a most sought-after, prolific artist. The pieces were in fact not for sale, as they are very dear to me, I still have them till today…
A friend who works with one of the big television networks in the country as Head of Production, reached out to me this year and said they were looking for fresh faces and new talents for a new production they were working on, a TV series and wanted me to help. I made a few calls and got referrals, interviewed them to ensure it was the right profile for the brief I had been given and it led to me building/forging relationships with some of these talents, male, female actresses, producers, cinematographers, and it sort of started growing from there. But these individuals didn’t have any representation and leverage or the network to get themselves heard or to put out their body of work. After this, I realised there were gaps to fill and I embarked on formal representation of talents beyond art and also the entertainment industry, and that was how Yellow Dot Limited was incorporated in April 2018.
How do you manage complaints that talent companies gain much more from the talents themselves than what the talents gain from the companies?
Yellow Dot is a very different type of company in that regard because of the individual behind it. I am a very thorough individual, extremely transparent and very accountable. I understand that a lot of people have had bad experiences with talent management companies. Also, owing to the fact that Yellow Dot is not primarily a talent management company, that is just one division, as there are so many different sides to it. The CEO of Yellow Dot Limited is also a creative person and I believe in all forms of artistic expression.
I am an architect, self-taught artist, writer, producer, etc. Beyond that, we have a production division and the reason I ever forayed into that was to give all our represented talents a platform through which they could showcase their talents. I took on the responsibility of producing one of our short films that
will be released shortly entitled, Onidiri. The cinematographer and director of the film are Yellow Dot talents, and it was written and produced by myself. We are commencing the shoot of the next project in November, which is also written, produced, and directed by Yellow Dot talents. Because they know that there is a lot of trust that has been built between myself and them and I connect on an individual basis with each one of these talented artists. Yellow Dot is a family.
Do you have any plans to go sourcing for more talents or you would rather they reach out to Yellow Dot themselves?
We are always open to referrals and people reaching out to us by all means. We are however focused at the moment, on building platforms through which we enable our currently represented talents express themselves. We are working on several projects that we are very busy with and rolling out. One is film production. Production is an enabling environment and a great platform that we set up for the actors, producers, writers, cinematographers and directors. Another platform is our art exhibitions that we set up for the visual artists, which will eventually be a quarterly event.
The premiere of our first movie, Onidiri, is taking place on October 26. We are so excited to share this with the world and are so grateful that we will have in attendance His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife, who has graciously agreed to take time out of his extremely busy schedule to support our vision and brand. We remain humbled by this.
What does Onidiri mean?
Onidiri means hairdresser in Yoruba. It literally means one that plaits the hair.
Can you give us a snippet of Onidiri?
Onidiri is in summary a discovery. It is about a woman looking back on her childhood and telling you about a truly peculiar African experience. I dare say that an African girl or woman would only have experienced Onidiri. For us, it is a pure story that we wanted to put out there not only to Nigerians but also to the world. In Nigeria, it is easy to relate but people in the UK, America may never ever have thought that a movie about a hairdresser will be expressed in that way, which is why I said it’s a discovery. It is an adventure through a child’s eye, from a child’s point of view. The beautiful story brings us to a point where our varying cultures from the north to the south meet; our unique message of unity in diversity is well presented through breathtaking cinematography.
Can movie lovers view the trailer of Onidiri online?
Yes. It is accessible online. Our teaser and trailer are out on all our social media handles and our Youtube channel. We will be communicating where we will be premiering Onidiri very shortly, because we are currently in talks with some of the networks that are interested in airing it on their platforms, and till that is concluded, I may not be able to divulge that information.
Do you have plans to go into partnership as regards sponsorship, especially as a new player in a well established industry?
Definitely we are looking at sponsors and grateful to secure the sponsorship of some great brands who are aligned with our vision. What we would like is for some recognised brands to identify with Yellow Dot but also to believe in what we are trying to do. So, not only from the funding aspect of it, because one of the things that I discuss with the talents is the fact that, although it is perceived as a difficult industry to thrive in and you really have to put your best foot forward, the difference with how we are operating it is that we are not sitting back and folding our arms, waiting for the opportunities to come; we are rather creating the opportunities through the channels mentioned earlier, and all these are 100% funded by me. Yes, it is taking its toll on me financially, which is why I am open and grateful for partnerships and sponsorship with notable brands and investors.
There has been a lot of revolution in Hollywood as well as Nollywood and the world thinks Africa is the next best destination for TV. What is your take on this?
I have come to see how we have so many undiscovered talents in Nigeria, it is unbelievable how really gifted these kids are and I am talking about the up and coming ones. There are so many of them that are able to do stuff but have not garnered the trust of production houses nor the experience to put out their good work, but it doesn’t change the fact that they can. They also are not enabled in the sense that they do not have the tools to produce the best quality of work because these things are expensive to acquire, even to rent. If you want to make a movie, to rent a high-quality camera is very expensive for a young filmmaker to get the money even though he has the artistic direction to deliver.
In the broader spectrum, talking about Nigeria and how it fits into the film industry globally, we are already doing a lot of work, there is a lot of excellent work being put out there, I believe that Nigerians have become more aware of what we can do in the film industry and are becoming very proud of it as well. Platforms such as AMVCA are huge and keep putting us out there and put us on the global map, and every year, there is improved output in the quality of our work, the storyline and content that we are creating. So, Nigeria is definitely on the right path.
What’s your north star for Yellow Dot?
I definitely want Yellow Dot to be recognised as that company which creates excellent material when it comes to original African content, solely written, produced, directed, shot, packaged and put out by Yellow Dot talents. This will help show the world that when given the opportunity, all talent can thrive and shine.