Skateboarding Is My Roots - Q&A With Slawn

Our latest collaborator Slawn has always been somewhat of an enigma. On the one hand, he rejects the artist label and industry politics. On the other - he is one of the most exciting and admired creators on the scene right now, sporting a cult-like following and global appeal. 

His collection with THE SKATEROOM is a nod to his skate roots, sprouted as a teenager in Lagos under the mentorship of Wafflesncream founder Jomi Bello. 

We met with Slawn in London to find out more about his creative process, his relationship with the art world, and the influence that skateboarding has had on his life and vision. 

Please introduce yourself. 

My name is Olaolu. People call me Slawn. I was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to London when I was 17. I work with art. I’m trying to be an artist.

Can you remember the first piece you made that you considered art?

I haven’t gotten there yet. Hopefully I’ll get there soon. I consider my work visual, but I don’t want to call myself an artist because I don’t feel like one. 

Why not?

I’d be doing myself a disservice. I can’t say I’m an athlete unless I’ve trained properly. Just because I can run fast doesn’t make me an athlete. 

How would you describe your work in a few words?

Simple, provocative and probably annoying. 

How would you describe the skate decks we’ve made together?

Beautiful, simple and energetic. One of them is provocative. 

Would you say your creative process is impulsive or do you tend to overthink?

Always impulsive. I don’t really have a process - I just get things made. 

What does skateboarding mean to you?

It’s where I come from. I started out as a skateboarder in Nigeria and everything outside came from being inspired by it. When you skate, you can become a filmmaker, a director, a pro-skater, an artist… There are so many things that you can get from it. Skateboarding is my roots.

What is your relationship with the art industry?

It’s not great at all. They don’t like me and I don’t like them. But I still have to create because that is my livelihood. That's all I know. So I don’t care if someone doesn’t like me. It is what it is. 

THE SKATEROOM recently funded the newly completed skatepark in Lagos, in partnership with Wafflesncream. What is your relationship with .waf and its founder Jomi Bello?

Jomi is my mentor. He picked me up as a fifteen year old and made me the creative director of Wafflesncream. Which is utterly insane considering my age. But still he put his trust in me. 

What is the skateboarding scene like in Nigeria?

We were the first to do it. I feel like I have the stats to say that I am an OG. Jomi really pushed for it. He is the messiah of Nigerian skateboarding. He saved everyone. It’s great to hear that THE SKATEROOM was involved in that project. 

The only reason why the skatepark hadn’t been built earlier was because people would approach Jomi to open one up privately. But he’d say - no, it has to be public. Everyone needs to have access to skateboarding. Nigeria is a very elitist place. The bigger picture for him was to create access to skateboarding for every single Nigerian.

Do you have plans to move back to Nigeria?

Soon. We’re talking about building a school there. I want to make sure that the greatness of Nigerian art doesn’t start and end with only a couple of us, but continues for generations. 

What is the vision behind the cafe you are running?

Without sounding corny, it was about creating a safe space for people of all nationalities and skin tones. Everyone can feel comfortable and do what they want to do - whether it’s creativity, or just stopping by for a coffee. My goal with it is just to make sure that the next generation is in safe hands with each other, and that they don’t have to look far to find help.