Skip to main content

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)


Popular posts from this blog

Underground party on the rooftop of City Hall in Lagos Island

Friday night, 7.30PM, Lagos Island is buzzing with road-side lamp-lit by ambulant merchants, suya sellers and other food items. Pedestrians are dashing to their destination through cars, kekenapes, okadas, hawkers. For some it is time to get home, for others it is the beginning of party time. As we approach the City Hall building, which is now used for offices and to host functions, voices become louder, vehicles are queuing-up to climb-up the ramp leading up to the entrance hall of the building with its façade adorned with squared column and glass protected by stylised irons grids. Cars are parked along the ramp and security staff is pressing car drivers to move on immediately after having disembarked their passengers. The main hall is hosting a wedding reception, luxuriously decorated. The music blares and a strong smell of fish is filling-up the whole place.

I am going to another function on the rooftop, but to do this I must cross the wedding entrance all and  slip past a cloth c…

the fish market of Epe

Epe (pronounced Ekpe in yoruba) is a small city located on the narrow stretch of water that separates the lagoon of Lagos from the one, further in the east, known as Lekki lagoon. It is built on the small hills that border the water. It is connected by a bridge to the Lekki peninsula.
The town is famous for its fish market located on the water side. It is the place to buy fresh water fish, some of them still alive. They are kept in plastic buckets but also directly in the lagoon water in woven baskets.
Many more is for sale such as crayfish, crocodile, turtle, monitor lizard, big snails.  Game meat is also available coming from the nearby forest of the Omo reserve. We saw two wild cats with white spotted black fur and a strong scent; As we left we saw antilope legs arriving to the stall.
Some fishes are particular, one is sending electricity shocks when you touch it, another one was looking like a prehistoric fish with a sort of dinosaur like shell; there was also one with giant scal…

The Ogiamien family in Benin City: about wood and history

Roland Ogiamien is a renown wood carver. He is now retired in his home town of Benin City and is now in his 80s. We met him in his simple workshop, a barn opened on the surrounding greenery. A part of the studio is used to store wood pieces and make sure they are well dried. He is using a collection of german ustensils to carve and polish the wood. He spent most of his career working out of Lagos before relocating to Benin.
Roland was explaining that the wood he uses today is different from his early days. Ebony has become rare and wood carvers have had to switch to other types of wood. Traditional heritage is a large part of his inspiration which he translates on wood with his own particular style, exploring various techniques for the finish of his pieces.
Ogiamien is the name of an important royal family in Benin Kingdom. Towards the end of the Ogiso dynasty (12th century), Ogiso Owodo did not have a son to succeed him, his brother Evian therefore took over after Owodo&#…