Tobi Onabolu is a filmmaker, creative director, poet, and cultural strategist, focused on pan-African cultural advocacy. He exists at the intersections between the conceptual, visual, written, and experiential arts, with a fervent interest in research through travel, within the West African region.
Interrogating topics of race, identity, space, and spirituality, Tobi creates works which centre the Black (human) experience in the journey of healing. He depicts the process of wellness, self-love, and self-care, exploring the human body as both subject and object. He focuses on movement through internal and external energy flows, capturing the tangible manifestation of healing. His recently released short film, Dear Black Child, speaks directly to this philosophy.
In his capacity as a cultural strategist, over consecutive years Tobi has helped to deliver Bumble’s groundbreaking initiative, #MyLoveIsBlackLove, a proud celebration of Black British love. As a creative director, his projects - Black, British + Proud in collaboration with Uber; Wavemakers with Foot Locker; An Ode to Hxr Excellence; and Afropresentism: Black Presence in the Diaspora, - have been impactful in celebrating Black identities.
In 2021, Tobi extended his practice as a creative director to the fashion and design milieu to launch Babouche!, a capsule footwear collection in collaboration with Nigerian designer, kkerele, offering a contemporary reimagination of the widely popular African shoe.
Additionally, Tobi’s poetry has seen him perform internationally including at the Royal Albert Hall, Soho House, and Pakhuis de Zwijger (Amsterdam), and his poetry has led him to collaborate with leading Nigerian fashion design house, IAMISIGO in their touring exhibition.
Tobi’s work has been featured on billboards and national newspapers across the UK, as well as in exhibitions, on platforms including Dazed, AFROPUNK, gal-dem, GQ, Blavity, A2.O, Postscript London, Genevieve, and shado mag.
Between 2018 - 2020, after a number of years spent at leading global creative agencies, Tobi moved to Lagos to spearhead marketing and communications for ART X Lagos, West Africa’s premier international art fair. In this post he successfully ran highly impactful marketing campaigns, helping to position the art fair as one of the continent’s leading cultural platforms. Highlights included extensive features in publications such as the New York Times, CNN, BBC, and Le Monde. Simultaneously, he managed high reaching digital marketing campaigns, with a follower growth of over 120% (25,000 to 60,000 followers) on the @artxlagos Instagram page.
Tobi holds an MA in Africa Studies from SOAS, University of London, with a thesis focussed on his great-uncle, artist Chief Aina Onabolu, who is widely acknowledged and celebrated as the founding father of Nigerian modernism. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in French & Philosophy from Durham University.
Tobi divides his time between West Africa and London.
Image credit: Ifebusola Shotunde