Osogbo Revisited

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Screen Shot 2017-12-09 at 3.35.04 PMIn a fortunate stroke of serendipity, Robin and Hugh Campbell, caretakers of the Osun Osogbo Sacred Groves and board member of The Susanne Wenger Adunni Orishia Trust, sent me a message inquiring if I was in Lagos. “Yes,” I answered and soon another message arrived asking if I would like to join them on a two-day trip to Osogbo (Osun State, south west Nigeria but north of Lagos). The drive was my first thought…the Lagos-Ibadan expressway is notorious for excruciating delays. After talking with a friend who drives the road frequently, I was assured that most of the road, indeed, lived up to the name: “expressway,” and baring any accidents, the traffic flows fairly smoothly. My friend believed the drive from Lagos to Osogbo would be within a normal 4 to 5-hour range. So with that assurance, I accepted their kind invitation.

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After a few days with an early start, we headed for Osogbo. This would be my third visit to the area. The first was in 1977. Then, I met Susanne Wenger. In Lagos, there had been word of a white woman making sculptures that represented Yoruba traditional religion in an “enchanted” garden. A friend, Pam Fields, and I decided to make explore these claims. In those days, driving to Osogbo was by way of a two-lane road. Armed robbery was non-existent. The worse fear was to have a problem with the car and no way to communicate with Lagos except from a hotel phone. Then, the trip could not be completed in one day. Our trip would take us through Abeokuta to stop at the indigo dye pits and juju market, spend the night Ibadan and attend the theatre at University of Ibadan (at the time, well-known for its drama department). Then to Osogbo, Ile-Efe and spend another night in Ibadan. Needless to say, in those days, there was much advanced preparation for a Nigerian road-trip.

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Once Pam and I found the Groves in Osogbo, we were pointed in a particular direction toward the forest where we came across Susanne Wenger. We chatted for a short while and she directed us to the Osun River to follow a path that included several of her sculptures. Making our way back to the road, we did not meet Wenger again. I remember that we were unimpressed and disappointed but thirty-seven years later on my next trip to Osogbo, that was not the case.

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In 2014, I set out following the Campbell’s car; we had mobile phones, bottled water, air-conditioned 4-wheel drive vehicles and a paved four-lane road with a possibility to arrive in Osogbo within four hours! I fully documented that trip on February 2014 See: Òşun Sacred Grove and Forest, February 2014 and  Osun Osogbo Grove , Obelisque Magazine, January, 2015.

So it was on an impulse that I commenced on the third visit to Osogbo, forty years after my first visit:

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mosque on way to Osogbo

Nike’s Guesthouse is a hub for visitors to Osogbo:

 

Asking for blessings….shrines of Osogbo

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Olukun at Kasali, work-carver’s compound

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Ogun Shrine, God of Iron

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shrine for wood-carvers and blacksmiths

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Susanne Wenger mentorship in the 1960’s encouraged local artist such as Rabiu Abesu and Kasali Akangbe-Ogun.

Wood carvings, art from ancestors, the prolific wood-carver Rabiu Abesu (b. 1940) expresses vividness of beauty and power through inner revelations that finds it way from thought to reality on wood.

 

 

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Mask and sculpture above by Rabiu. Kiki in silhouette

Kasali Akangbe-Ogun (b. 1945) comes from a line of professional wood-carver. Internationally known,  his  sculptures reflect the intrinsic culture and emphasize symbols and figures of Yoruba gods. Akangbe Ogun’s  uses omo wood (similar to mahogany). The wood is cured for seven years.Deborah Bell explains in Mask Makers and Their Crafts that Akangbe Ogun, “cuts the trunk vertically in half. He began his carving by paying homage to his ancestors and other divinities. The completed carving would eventually take an oil polish that darkens the color and makes it termite-proof.”

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some wood carvings at Kasali’s workshop

 

Kasali Akangbe-Ogun’s workshop:

 

 

Fields of art – the Groves. Susanne Wenger’s work survives due to a host of hands that over sixty years have committed one thing or another to protect and promote sculpture in honor of Yoruba traditional religion. Robin and Hugh Campbell have been warriors in keeping this UNESCO Heritage site viable. They do the heavy lifting of promotion, protection, rehabilitation, organization, and fundraising. See their recent fundraiser, Save Our Art, November 2016.

 

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Toyin and I at entrance of the Groves

See Nigeria Magazine article by Susanne Wenger and meaning of her sculpture:

Susanne Wenger at 100  (1915-2009) Nigeria Magazine ,Gods and Myths in Susanne Wenger’s Art: The Example of Batik Cloth by Stanley P. Bohrer and Susanne Wenger Alarape Nigeria Magazine, 1976, Issue 120

(all rights reserved, copyright 2017 .To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required)copyscape-banner-white-160x56

 

Susanne Wenger at 100!

The òrìşà is like the many aspects in our unconscious: suffering, aggression, creativity, purity, love, wisdom… One can choose any of these roads towards the invisible, and make it alive inside oneself. – Susanne Wenger (1915-2009)

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The Òşun Sacred Grove and Forest might have been lost to the world if it were not for the dedication of an Austrian artist, Susanne Wenger, born July 4, 1915, and who came to Osogbo, Nigeria  in 1960. She studied the Yoruba language, culture, and religion dedicating her life’s work to the restoration and protection of the shrines and grove.

To celebrate Susanne Wenger’s art, to honor her life’s work of perseverance in protection of Yoruba heritage, from my collection of Nigeria Magazine, I offer this gift.

Gods and Myths in Susanne Wenger’s Art

The Example of Batik Cloth

by Stanley P. Bohrer and Susanne Wenger Alarape

Nigeria Magazine, 1976, Issue 120.

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Article in Obelisque Magazine, Osun Osogbo Grove, January 2015: https://nomad4now.com/articles/osun-osogbo-grove/

Go to post: Osun Sacred Grove and Forest https://nomad4now.com/2014/02/25/osun-sacred-grove-and-forest/

For more information go to :

http://www.susannewengerfoundation.at

http://www.susannewenger-aot.org

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Osun Osogbo Sacred Groves

(Music in clip by Orin Orisa. Adedayo Ologundudu, Yoruba traditional songs of praises for Orisa: Osun Yoruba Spirit of Rivers.)

Obelisque Magazine – 2015

unnamed Articles featured in Obelisque Magazine 2015

Osun Osogbo Grove – Osogbo, Nigeria

City of the Past – Fayoum, Egypt

Encode Studio – Alexandria, Egypt

Street Art: Borg el Zamalek – Zamalek, Egypt

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Read Article here

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Read Article Here

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Read Article Here

Street art 20-3-14-2-001Read Here 

Obelisque Magazine 2015, all rights reserved. Photographs and text cannot be reproduced without the permission of Obelisque Magazine and Lesley Lababidi.

Òşun Sacred Grove and Forest

copyscape-banner-white-160x56DSC_0471 The òrìşà is like the many aspects in our unconscious: suffering, aggression, creativity, purity, love, wisdom… One can choose any of these roads towards the invisible, and make it alive in side oneself. – Susanne Wenger

The Òşun Osogbo Sacred Grove reveals physical manifestation of the powers of the goddess Òşun, goddess of living water.  The Òşun River flows into Osogbo town and meanders through the groves finally spreading into the Gulf of Guinea. The water is believed to possess curative powers for infertility and life’s controversies. As in life, undercurrents push and swirl.  It is wise to be aware of what happens in the background.

Within the Grove, the sculptures of Yoruba gods and goddesses are dedicated to Òşun. The groves, shrines and sculptures retain the intimate relationship between the Yoruba people, their art, religion and natural environment.  Òrìşà is ever present in all aspects of the gods.

Over the centuries, a highly developed system of governance from ruler to market existed throughout Yorubaland.  Within city-states, society was governed through a series of networks—tribe, territory, guilds, secret societies, and religious shrines.

In pre-colonial times, parts of Yorubaland were ruled by an Oba (king, second only to the gods) with a secular council of noble elders, elú. Today, traditional culture and religion is still recognizable and practiced but it fades with the passing of each generation.

Modern life puts its demands: ancestor’s stories and myths are no longer told, markets are full of Chinese goods rather than handmade local items; and the undisturbed rainforest that housed sacred groves are being up-rooted and sold to developers. In the traditional Yoruba religion, groves are sacred places reserved for rituals or shrines. One city that has managed to protect its sacred grove is Osogbo, the capital of Òşun State in southwestern Nigeria.

The city surrounds the ancient grove that is home to nearly 40 shrines and sculptures. Although the city pushes from all sides, the grove remains tranquil with ritual pathways winding through the forest that lead devotees to the shrines.

The Òşun Sacred Grove and Forest might have been lost to the world if it were not for the dedication of an Austrian artist, Susanne Wenger, who arrived to Osogbo in 1960. She studied the Yoruba language and religion and dedicated her life’s work to the restoration and protection of the shrines and grove.

Osogbo is the capital of Òşun  State, southwest Nigeria, and was founded approximately 400 years ago. The city is 250km north of Lagos and has the largest surviving sacred grove in Yorubaland.  Òşun  Sacred Grove and Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For more on Susanne Wenger and her extraordinary life, go to: The Susanne Wenger Adunni Olorisha Trust and Susanne Wenger Foundation

Read article in Obelisque Magazine January 2015: Osun Osogbo Grove

 

(Music in clip by Orin Orisa. Adedayo Ologundudu, Yoruba traditional songs of praises for Orisa: Osun Yoruba Spirit of Rivers.)copyscape-banner-white-160x56