“I am a performance artist. I use my body as an instrument in my art.”
Unassuming, as if unaware of his own profoundness, Jelili has the appearance of the typical Nigerian going about his business: survival. But there’s far more to the man than meets the eye. He keeps body and soul together by teaching drawing and sculpture at the Lagos State Polytechnic, influencing a new generation of artists who, in his own words, will not just “create artwork for artwork’s sake.” As happy as teaching makes him, Jelili’s real passion is performance/live art, art in which the artist becomes the artwork.
Driven by his concerns for human rights and justice, the 47-year-old artist who studied entirely in Nigeria (at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Lagos) has travelled the world for a decade artfully spotlighting the effects of violence, poverty, corruption, climate change and other phenomena that have impacted humankind negatively.
His performance in his hometown of Ejigbo, Red Light (a statement about the penchant of humans for violence), is the subject of Lagos In The Red, a documentary by Danish filmmakers Lotte Løvholm, Karen Andersen and Nanna Nielsen.