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Osogbo, what happened to Suzanne Wenger's last work?

a divine creature from Suzanne Wenger's last work
a divine creature from Suzanne Wenger's last work (detail from Odi)
Nature is green, leaves are happily growing on trees and in the bush following the recent rains. The sacred grove in Osogbo feels like an impenetrable forest after the dry season which had cleared a lot of foliage to form a soft blanket under one's feet and fertilise the soil. The reinforced concrete sculptures erected by Suzanne Wenger and her team through the grove now appear as fantastic creatures in the forest.
The river Osun snakes its way through the grove, silently and somewhat lazily, conveying a deep sense of peace spiced-up by the appearance of the artworks hidden throughout the grove. A few are visible from the road that traverses the grove, but secrecy and mystery is essential to traditional spirituality, so many of them are in remote locations.
Ogun riding on a lion
Ogun riding on a lion
These representations of Yoruba divinities require their own privacy, their own corner to be properly  interacted with. Their concrete is usually coloured. Some are of a pink-orange, like Mediterranean house coating or perhaps the colour of the earth. Others are grey like ordinary concrete especially the more complex and intricate ones.
On older works, especially remote ones buried in the lushness of the grove, moss is spreading on the curves of the sculptures. It conveys a frightening and yet fascinating appearance to the characters with disproportionately large bulging eyes, emaciated faces and pointed teeth. Mystical is perhaps the word to describe them.
lost in the jungle
Odi, lost in the jungle
The afternoon is sunny, but the foliage of trees cuts the glare of the sun and diffuses its light. Not far from the river, stands amidst trees, hidden in the bush, a giant imbroglio of concrete shapes, laced one with the other, without an end or a beginning, one of the last work of Suzanne Wenger, called Odi (Deaf and Dumb), away from most visitors' gaze.
I read that Suzanne was comfortable with the idea of decaying artwork going back to the origins of creation, concrete dust, rusted iron. The sculpture is in a state of advanced frailty through the assault of time, humidity and heat and yet very frightening like a bush of thorns from which, after a more detailed observation, bodies and faces of uninviting creatures emerge. Some part of concrete are falling apart only held up by iron wires until those too rust away. Time is ticking.
As the site is under Unesco listing, a team of local artists and craftmen is tasked to restore and expand the work initiated by Suzanne and her first husband Ulli Beier under what was coined New Sacred Art Movement. These artists are the survival link to preserve representations of the traditional Yoruba culture in the grove.
creature from another world
creature from another world (detail from Odi)


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