The Balvenie, A luxurious range of whisky from the staples of William Grant and Sons distillery, Scotland, is crafted by Malt Master David C Stewart. Every drop to the bottle is made with craftsmanship at its heart and as such, each expression of the Balvenie is unique, rich, luxuriously smooth, underpinned by a distinctive honeyed character.
Since its inception, the brand has constantly strived to collaborate with like-minded people who share in its passion to create. Creatives who through their creativity share a unique insight into the dedication and sacrifice required to produce items by hand.
To bring this concept to life, The Balvenie collaborated with three incredibly talented artists and hosted guests to an opulent evening of fine dining, classical entertainment, live music, an art exhibition, and of course a taste of Balvenie.
The event was held at the prestigious Vanilla Restaurant, one of Abuja’s leading fine dining establishments for the past 14 years.n Compered by Actor, Artist, and choreographer Ibrahim Suleiman, playing host to the crème de la crème of Abuja high society, guests were introduced to the brand collaborators who in turn shared their Makers stories.
Introducing the trinity of Makers, Babalola Oluwafemi, who doubles as an artist, curator, designer, and a major promoter of African arts; Jacqueline Suowari a visual artist using the Ballpoint pen primarily as a means of expression and Dotun Popoola, a synergetic metal sculptor who has carved a niche for himself with his hyper-realistic monumental metal sculptures.
Tasked to share their Balvenie maker’s stories, the artists had these to say:
As a fine artist, curator, designer, and major promoter of African arts, Babalola Oluwafemi, who hails from Ijumu local government area of Kogi State, has continued to show the world that he’s an exceptional craftsman. With a Degree in Fine Arts (specialty in Art History), the CEO of the Amazing studios, his story would motivate anybody from the grassroots. Describing his craftsmanship, Babalola said he is inspired by originality.
He stated that in a world where little or no attachments to one’s roots and foundation are prevalent, originality becomes rare, almost endangered, all in the squalor of everyday living. Referencing the craftsmanship in The Balvenie brand, he explained that one could see how easily originality and tradition have been preserved, and where necessary, protected over decades with feats as simple as staying true to the idea of growing its barley, He says;
I like to tap right into that originality that so many of my contemporaries have, in the quest for modernization, abandoned. A lot of my art has been inspired by stories of old, sculptures of old times, traditional arts and fashion, and most of all, the will to keep things as connected to the beginning and the center of all things, as possible.
According to Pablo Picasso, “Action is the foundational key to all success” It’s not easy to stay focused on a goal, and often we drift away from it or trade it for something else. However, it’s important to remember that to achieve our dreams, we need to stop dreaming about them and start working on finding ways of turning them into reality.
And this reality has helped Jacqueline Suowari, a visual artist who uses the Ballpoint pen primarily as a means of expression to become who she is today. She’s one of the most respected female artists who have poured out her talent in painting exceptional arts that the world is reckoning with.
According to her, everyone is a social creature always looking for fantasy in real life to trigger their thought process and seek inspiration from them. Describing her craftsmanship, she said;
Drawing is one of the oldest forms of human expression known to man. Art relies on the craftsmanship of drawing for the honest representation of ideas. For me as an artist, every visual rendition of an idea begins with a line. My work comprises hundreds of thousands of lines webbed up beautifully with the skilled mastery of the ballpoint pen
The Balvenie harnesses skills from natural alchemy and centuries-old craftsmanship for its production; it is the most hand-crafted amongst single malts. Balvenie craftsmen have an intimate understanding of their materials and a desire to make the very best whisky possible. Likewise, the magic of my work lies in my creative process. This is a combination of many years of expertise, time, determination, skill, and the ambition to always attain new levels of excellence with each completed painting. These same elements make up the core production techniques of The Balvenie, giving it its unique character,” she explains.
She added that every day, they come across multiple strangers but seek inspiration from only a few of them, and what sets them apart. This also helps them to be who they are. According to Jacqueline, she always wants to create pieces that are riveting and relevant to the present time; pieces that her audience can immediately relate to, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
She pointed out that the place of an artist in today’s world encompasses and is interwoven between the roles of a Doctor – to heal, a Prophet- to see and a Soldier – to protect.
A synergetic metal sculptor who has carved a niche for himself with his monumental metal sculptures, he rose from a state of hopelessness to becoming a dealer in hope; giving himself to the service of humanity through his artistic practice and community services.
At the age of nine, his parents were sensitive enough to discover his creative ability concerning art and the creation of beauty. They supported him tremendously and bought art materials for him as they noticed his enthusiasm, restiveness, and consistency in art.
According to him, history has recorded that the Balvenie craft is an undisputed luxury brand that believes in sophistication and simplicity, excellent craftsmanship rendered with passion and each expression is unique in a distinctive taste and character. In the same vein, his creative exploration thrives on the wings of passion, and dedication to his crafts, sacrificing his time of pleasure for self-discovery.
I take my time to select different scraps and weld them together, each piece is a product of tenacity, perseverance, and long-suffering but the end product gives a fulfilling breath.
Additionally, he explained that his artistic practice is based on a personal philosophy that art should be explored as an agent of change, and as a socio-cultural review.
My goal is to create a luxury brand out of discarded materials and wastes that make our environments unsightly and threaten the ecosystem,” he revealed.
Dotun facilitates art workshops for students, professionals, NGOs, healthcare institutions, hospices, orphanage homes, rehabilitation centers, and schools locally and internationally. He has equally executed several monumental sculptures and large murals both in Nigeria and the United States of America. He continues to provide landmark mentoring opportunities for professional development for local and international artists in his studio in South-West Nigeria.
One of the high points of the event was the moment Dotun invited three of his students whom he tasked with an assignment to create unique metal sculptures by drawing inspiration from the Balvenie bottle. He revealed their final project much to the adulation of the guests in attendance.
His students Femi Ayanwale, Ajike Dominic, and Kunle Adewole thanked The Balvenie brand for the recognition, saying this experience was the high point of their creative journey.
The event came to a sentimental end with Babalola surprising his fellow Makers with a portrait depicting the likeness of all three collaborators with the brand’s iconic bottle serving as the centerpiece of the painting.