ORINDA -- Kabir Adejare strives to unearth the whole story behind his artwork, whether it is a person's background or a current or historical event or situation that inspired him to create art.
Adejare, a Concord resident, finds just the right medium to tell his stories. He has a wide range to choose from -- acrylic and oil paint, pen and ink, plywood cut, batik, appliqué and embroidery.
In celebration of African American History Month, Adejare features his mostly pen-and-ink-on-canvas paintings at the Orinda Library Gallery through February.
Titled "History Makers," the exhibit features the people Adejare felt has inspired not just him but an entire world and generations of people.
"The idea was to do a collection of paintings about once ordinary people who grew up to do extraordinary things," said Adejare, a Concord resident.
An example is his rendering of the U.S. president, titled "Young Obama."
"I was looking at old photos of Obama that the public has rarely seen," said Adejare, who was born and raised in Nigeria. "He was once a little boy who grew up to become president. This makes me think of all the parents who want their kids to become great and extraordinary."
Paying tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, Adejare -- who once assisted a well-known sculptor and lecturer in Osun State, Nigeria, Olabiran Osunsoko of Oduduwa Art Gallery -- created a pen-and-ink on canvas to celebrate the former South African president's legacy.
Moremi Ajasoro, Princess of the Yoruba, a prominent figure in the history of the Yoruba peoples of West Africa, is also depicted in Adejare's artwork.
"She was courageous and influential in a country dominated by men," said Adejare. "She's the one who stepped up and she risked her life to help her people instead of protecting herself. The common bond of the people depicted in the History Makers series if that they have all risked their lives to help others."
While Thomas Fuller isn't well known in the mainstream, Adejare was moved by the mathematician's story and journey from his humble beginnings to his rise as a mathematical genius.
"This is someone who didn't have a formal education but was gifted with the extraordinary powers of calculation," Adejare said. "His was an inspiring example of ordinary people making history."
In some ways, Adejare's own journey, from his first artistic endeavor drawing on the outside walls of a house as a kid growing up in Nigeria to working as an apprentice to some of the country's most notable artists, mirrors the stories of some of the history makers to whom his paintings pay homage.
Olajuwon Ojo, a longtime friend of Adejare's since his early years in Nigeria, said his friend has always created inspiring artwork.
"All of his work is so beautiful," said Ojo, who helped Adejare set up the paintings at the Orinda gallery. "Back home, he did a lot of artwork and was in many exhibitions. Kabir's work sends a powerful message."
Kabir was invited to the United States in 2002 for several exhibitions during African American History Month, including The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (in Los Angeles and Atlanta) and The Art of the Living Black in Richmond.
"Kabir often begins researching subject matter for his pieces about a year in advance of an exhibition," said Monica Johnston, Adejare's wife. "It is interesting to watch how ideas come together and take shape on paper and then canvas. Given his strong interest in sociopolitical figures in the United States and around the world, History Makers was a natural direction for him to take. I'm hoping that History Makers will be the start of a larger and more diverse series of history makers."
WHEN: Through February 28
WHERE: Orinda Library Gallery