Exploring art, entrepreneurship, and creativity: An interview with Renike

Toluwani Omotesho


In our recent Limitless podcast, we spoke with the award-winning visual artist and the co-founder of the fashion brand Bawsty, Morenike Olusanya, popularly known as Renike. In this conversation, she takes us through her remarkable journey as an artist, entrepreneur, and lifestyle influencer.

Have you ever worked a 9-5?

Yes, for about three and a half years. I got a job in my final year of university and worked there for two years before switching to a contract role for a media company. I went freelance full-time in 2020.

Oh wow. Many people are scared to quit their jobs to follow their passions. How did you navigate that?

Oh, I was very scared; it was an impulsive decision, but many people told me to try it out. After all, I could always fall back on my degree. And although I studied graphic design, I knew I could still make an impact, regardless of the industry, because everyone needs a graphic designer. So, I took the brave decision, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’d like to say that the discouragements and inspiration I got around that time motivated me to pursue art as a freelancer. I had been job hunting, and the offers I got were disappointing. At the same time, I was also seeing works from other artists, which inspired me to explore freelancing and see how it’d play out.  ‘

There’s a common belief that artists and other creatives struggle financially. Do you think this has changed in recent times?

I think this is a common fear among parents in particular. I remember having a long conversation with my father, who, although he worked as an artist for some time, was still worried when I told him I wanted to study creative arts. I was eventually able to convince and reassure him that I could do this well, and if it didn’t work out, I’d quickly pick up something else.

But I think for artists these days, social media makes all the difference. It’s easier to reach people outside your studio, country, and continent. You can connect with clients, collectors, and galleries outside your primary location; social media is now a serious game changer.

That’s very true. How do you think Artificial Intelligence (AI) will affect art in terms of creativity and pressure on artists?

This is a good question because it’s an ongoing conversation these days. AI is taking and threatening to take a lot of jobs, but I don’t necessarily feel pressured because I think it’s a cycle. There will always be new inventions; this same conversation probably happened with traditional artists during the emergence of digital art; the same can be applied to photography and painting.

I believe there will always be new technology. Still, the difference is that the human experience and connection are irreplaceable, which is why many people choose to work with human artists over AI. Also, there’s a different audience for everything. In the same way that digital and traditional art and photography have their dedicated audiences, AI has its unique audience that it caters to.

And I think there will be more collaborations with AI rather than clashes. While I don’t support the piracy aspect of AI, I don’t think we should be threatened by it; instead, we should find a way to work with it and use it for our benefit.

That’s insightful. Thanks for sharing. What would you be doing if you weren’t Renike, the artist or influencer?

A while ago, the answer to this would have been interior decor, but after working closely with an interior decorator to design my apartment, I don’t think the stress involved is for me. I feel like I’m called to be an artist, and I’ve explored many other things – dancing, acting, singing, and even playing instruments. But I’m still an artist today, after a long time, because I really like painting, and while I enjoy experiencing good interior decor, I don’t think it’s something I want to take up.

However, realistically speaking, if I were to do something else, it would be related to travel. I’d also like to explore science. I work in the public health sector sometimes, where I create art that helps scientists and doctors explain concepts to the public, and the whole experience has opened me up to how broad and exciting science is. So it’d be travel or science.

Also read: A List of Visa-free Countries for Nigerian Passport Holders

What’s the one thing that keeps you going?

The fact that I’m able to create based on anything and everything. And I’m just really happy; when I worked a 9-5, I had a lot of anxiety, and this isn’t to say 9-5’s are bad. I might do it again, but I was just so stressed out. Switching to freelance art gave me peace of mind, and that’s the number one thing that encourages me not to quit.

Also, there’s this excitement that the collaboration part of my work brings. Art has helped me meet many beautiful people, and I’ve worked in different industries, sports, beauty, and cosmetics. I’ve been able to work on my social skills, and I don’t think this would have happened if I weren’t an artist because I’m typically reserved. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to practice and live as an artist, and I’m curious to see where my talent takes me next.

Do you ever reflect on your journey and are surprised by how far you’ve come?

All the time. Sometimes, I struggle with imposter syndrome, especially when I got awarded recently. But I think it’s all God’s grace, and it always shocks me. It’s unbelievable and slightly scary because I believe and hope things will get better, and I’m still going to higher places.

You’re sometimes called a lifestyle influencer. What does that feel like for you?

I think it’s terrifying and has made me more cautious, especially on X (formerly Twitter). There are things I want to say, but I can’t because I feel there’s a lot of attention on me. And while this doesn’t mean I can’t be genuine, I now have to cater to the feelings of people listening to what I’m saying. But I still don’t think I’m an influencer – I’m just someone with many followers.

Also read: A Guide to Influencer Marketing: Success Tips from Ajibola Grey

Let’s talk about Bawsty. Do you think art influenced your fashion side?

No, in fact, I started paying more attention to my sense of dress because of Bawsty. Before now, I approached fashion from a place of functionality where you wear clothes to be covered up. I didn’t dress for my body type, and it was also extra difficult to get clothes as a busty woman. But Bawsty made me realize that you can look better, and that’s when I started experimenting and exploring because Renike, the artist, is okay with wearing clothes that offer comfort and nothing more.

That’s interesting. How does being a creative and an entrepreneur feel, especially in Nigeria?

Firstly, as an artist, you learn a lot about business, especially if you don’t belong to an agency or have a manager. I’d call freelance artists creative entrepreneurs mainly because you’ll do everything yourself: marketing, finance, and customer service.

For Bawsty, I mainly handle the marketing and customer relations aspects, while my co-founder deals with the design and creative parts. The entire experience has taught me about art influencing and people management, which is especially handy when catering to a group of people who have been neglected in the fashion industry for a long time. But overall, it has been a very exciting experience, and I look forward to how the business will grow and what I will learn.

Wrapping up

Renike’s story is a testament that sometimes, you must take that leap of faith to pursue your dreams and passions outside your comfort zone. And being open to new experiences and opportunities and taking advantage of collaborations can help you have meaningful impacts in your respective field.

Back to top