Writings of the general word's body

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ulli Beier

Concerning the epochal passing of Ulli Beier on April 3 at the age of 88, I feel the words are better left to those who can say it best. Many rose to the challenge, and there was an avalanche of writings in the Nigerian press in the first few days, perhaps reaching an apogee on Sunday, 10 April (the man having been cremated the Friday before).

Among the pieces published last Sunday, Muraina Oyelami, the man who broke the news of a death in Australia from his base in Iragbiji and something of a living authority on Beier, wrote the moving tribute, 'Ulli Beier Akanji. Sun're O'. Mufu Onifade introduced a new weekly column with the piece, 'Ulli Beier: Unfulfilled dream of a true Africanist'. And Canada-based poet, Amatoritsero Ede, recalled meeting the man also known as Obotunde Ijimere in Germany circa 1996, in his piece, 'Ulli Beier: A Pagan Yoruba Man in Christian Bayreuth'. All the relevant pages are reproduced here. Toni Kan's piece is also here, although I don't think it's available online. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke also wrote something in ThisDAY on April 10.

I was struck by the dearth of photographs of Beier, precious few available, for a man that did so much to document the works of others - artists and cultures, especially the Yoruba. Very rarely must he have had cameras focused on his own face. Which gives the ring of truth to John Martin's words on Beier: "He is one of the great unsung heroes of art and I think his significance will only be really understood in years to come. Partly it is the fact that he took a back seat and was, rightly, prepared to duck out of the limelight in favour of the artists he nurtured, encouraged and promoted."

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