Abiola Wabara, Women’s Basketball alumna, thrives in the art world

"The garden of perfect imperfections," mixed media on canvas; 30" x 40". Artwork courtesy of Abiola Wabara.

By Saphiana Zamora | Reporter

Abiola Wabara came to Baylor as an international student from Parma, Italy, and graduated in 2006 with the Baylor Women’s Basketball program’s first NCAA Women’s Division I National Championship in 2005 under her belt.

After Wabara’s time at Baylor, she traveled across Europe playing for 10 years as an international basketball player and earned a masters degree in International Business Management in England at the University of East London.

“From 2006 to 2016 I played in Israel, Spain, Italy and ended my career in England,” Wabara said. “I made a deal with the team I played for in England that if I played for them, they would pay for my masters degree.”

The team agreed and in 2017 Wabara landed a job at Accenture, a Dublin-based international consulting firm, as a consultant and has continued to build her career while finding her home in Houston.

Yet all throughout Wabara’s basketball and educational journey, she grounded herself by painting. What began as a hobby developed into an important part of her life that she is highly invested in.

Wabara utilizes oil painting as her main form of medium when creating her pieces. She learned to use oil paints at a workshop she attended while overseas and has grown her skill over time.

“Growing up in Italy, I had no definition of being Black,” Wabara said. “My inspiration comes from Italy, a country where no one looked like me, aside from my immediate family. I used my art to represent what I saw beautiful in being a Black girl because I couldn’t see it reflected anywhere else.”

Mixed media on canvas. Oil, acrylics, spray paint and metal wings . Measures 30” x 40”
"Blue Thoughts," mixed media on canvas: oil, acrylics, spray paint and metal wings; 30” x 40”. Artwork courtesy of Abiola Wabara.

Wabara explained that coming to the United States to play for Baylor was a huge culture shock.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Woah, there’s a lot of people here who look like me,” Wabara said.

Wabara described herself as an angry teenager who struggled with racism in her hometown. Some of her earliest memories consist of individuals questioning her skin color.

“I didn’t have to deal with growing up in America as a Black girl, but I’m still experiencing the same things,” Wabara said. “It shows that racism is a real issue.”

Wabara began selling her art slowly. During her time at Baylor she was focused on her basketball career and didn’t begin to showcase her art until she moved overseas.

“One thing about art is that it is very personal,” Wabara said. “People connect to my art, collectors look at my pieces and find something that speaks to them.”

Acrylic paint on wood panel. Measures 24”x24”
"Fire & Ice," acrylic paint on wood panel; 24”x24”. Artwork courtesy of Abiola Wabara/

After completing her professional international basketball career, Wabara moved to Houston and worked as an Uber driver while selling her art at Houston Art Markets before finding her current job. Though she’s found success selling her art locally, Wabara said she doesn’t plan to become a full time artist.

“I’m not going to use my art as a source of income because it takes away the passion from it,” Wabara said. “I paint what I want to paint.”