Writings of the general word's body

Friday, August 27, 2010

Osun Festival with/out the king

Well, see this. This is the royal stool of the king of Osogbo, left vacant by the monarch's death on August 4. The king normally has a role to play in the festival, and has to wear the crown in this picture, the Adeosun, once a year during the Osun river deity festival only. Oba Matanmi's passing so close to the festival made this the first edition ever without an Osogbo king on the throne. Word was that second in command in the ancient city would play the role of the king, still one wanted to see quite what would happen today in the Osun Grove.

I think a most dignified solution was found, and here it is. On the ceremonial stool in the Osun Grove, next to the state governor Oyinlola and other dignitaries, was the Oba's stool, draped in white, the Adeosun and the king's staff of office and the irukere - on the seat throughout the ceremony. I have often spoken to people about the sheer spectacle of seeing the late Matanmi transform into the Adeosun (a crown with 16 eyes embossed on it) last year. He had come to the grove with a regular crown but when it was time to go and pay homage at the riverside, his courtiers shielded him all the way round with their flowing agbada. Next thing you know, he was in this Adeosun. When he returned from the river, the agbadas shielded him again, and he was back in the regular crown. I thought nothing could beat seeing Matanmi in this crown, but that was before I saw this earlier today. Beautiful way to symbolise the permanence of the throne. The king is dead, long live the king and all of that.

This picture is by Tommy Adegbite courtesy Osun Tourism. My own images of Osun Festival, later.

Osun Osogbo Festival, today

Erelu Lola Ayonrinde saying prayers by the river

Like sirens by the water: Osun devotees

Robin Campbell (right) of the Adunni Olorisa Trust.

It's the day of perhaps the most famous and the most successful cultural festival in Nigeria, and let's not forget that for believers of the Osun river deity, it's a religious occasion. Osun State, Osogbo especially, is teeming with hundreds of foreign guests who have come in for two major conferences in this corner of the country, and no doubt some will be heading river way to witness the spectacle of Osun Osogbo for themselves, swelling even more the crowds in the ancient town. It will be hectic, but it will be worth it and Wordsbody will be there.

These pictures can only give a hint, as they were not taken at last year's festival but months before, at a rite of passage for Susanne Wenger in April 2009.

It's the first Osun Osogbo ever to hold without a king on the Osogbo throne. Oba Matanmi joined the ancestors earlier this month. The king is the custodian of the festival and has sacred rites to perform in order to maintain the town's ties to the Osun goddess. It will be interesting to see how it's played out this year, as Osogbo second-in-command, Chief Gabriel Oparanti, fills in the king's role. No doubt continuity is assured, just as it was last year after the passing of Wenger, the most famous person ever associated with the festival.

I was at last August's grand finale. Seeing the Arugba (Osun votary maid) enter the grove was quite something. And what an awesome sight seeing Oba Matanmi in the 'crown with 16 eyes', the Adeosun. Little did one know it would be the last....

Osun Osogbo Festival

Osun Grove World Heritage Site

Isale Osun, Osogbo.

Photos: Molara Wood

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Susanne Wenger

Here's Susanne Wenger's room in her house on Ibokun Road, Osogbo, Osun State, photographed by me 3 months after her death, on 12 April 2009

A new book on the late Adunni Olorisa, Susanne Wenger: Artist and Priestess, is significant for many reasons. One of these is the fact that it sheds like on the Osun priestess' marriage to an Osogbo man after her divorce from Ulli Beier. Little had been known about the second marriage. At the time of Wenger's death on 12 January 2009, obituary writers, myself included, had trouble pinning down the shadowy facts of this marriage. Some accounts said the local drummer she married was called Ayansola, others said he was Chief Alarape. It did occur to me that both names might be valid, that the husband was perhaps Ayansola Alarape. But beyond this, we knew nothing. It was generally assumed the drummer must have died and she lived the rest of her long life a widow. Now we know better, thanks to the new book by Paola Caboara Luzzatto, published in Italian and English, the story therein related directly in Wenger's own words. One fascinating chapter sheds light on the marriage to 'Ayonsola'. Tomorrow's Osun Osogbo day, so here goes...

My divorce from Ulli was by now official and I decided to get married to Ayonsola according to the local custom. It looked like the most natural thing to do. I was not discouraged by polygamy: I was aware that in a good traditional Yoruba marriage polygamy meant independence and respect, without jealousy and without possessiveness. Ayonsola had only one wife, she was the mother of the 9-year-old girl who used to come and play and dance with me. Jealousy was not an issue: we spent many afternoons together, myself and his wife, making batiks and cooking and talking about everything.

International Colloquium on Slavery, Slave Trade and Their Consequences

I'm blogging from the International Colloquium on Slavery, Slave Trade and Their Consequences, which opened at the Royal Park Hotel, Iloko-Ijesa, Osun State, on Monday 23 August.

The Colloquium is organised by the UNESCO Category II Centre of Black Culture and International Understanding, based in Osogbo, headed by Professor Wole Ogundele. Heading the organising committee of the colloquium is Professor Abi Derefaka.

Major scholars, writers and thinkers as well as performers are here: Toyin Falola, Bolanle Awe, Runoko Rashidi, Chinweizu, Edmund Moukala, Paul Lovejoy, Ivor Miller (who's doing major research into Calabar Efik culture in the Diaspora as a result of the Slave Trade), Doudou Diene (UN Special Rapporteur on these matters, who delivered a beautiful Keynote Address on opening day 23 August, in a speech that seemed to come straight from his soul), Ali Moussa-Iye (of the UNESCO Slave Routes Project), Sheila Walker (who's made a major film on the Slave Trade in conjunction with UNESCO), historian E.J Alagoa... The list is endless.

Osun Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola attended a session this morning, on 'Slave Market, Routes, Monuments, Relics and Tourism'. Other plenary sessions have included: 'Reconciliation, Reparation and Rehabilitation', Globalisation and New Forms of Enslavement', 'Women, Slavery and the Slave Trade' (see my report from one session), 'Regional Pespectives on Slavery and the Slave Trade' and 'Historiography of the Slavery and the Slave Trade'.

Last night Tiki Mercury-Clarke gave a performance on the role on Negro Spirituals during slavery and the roots of Gospel Music (I now have her CD 'Life Every Voice and Sing!). The foregoing URL shows Mercury-Clarke with a bald head, but here in Iloko-Ijesa she's got a locked hair flowing past her shoulders. There's a Gala Night tonight, with a performance by Orlando Julius, the great Highlife musician whose wife is African American.

The Colloquium is accompanied by an exhibition curated by the UNESCO Slave Routes Project (see photo above).

The colloquium had a joint opening ceremony with the Global Conference of Black Nationalities, holding right now in Osogbo. Both come to a close tomorrow.

Osun home of culture? This week it is

It's difficult to crop Ogun State governor Gbenga Daniel out of this picture, so he stays - but the people I'm particularly concerned with, are the men on either side of him. Reason is that these 2 signify for me the bridging of whatever gulf there might be between Africa and her Diaspora. Left is US Academic Runoko Rashidi who has undergone a life's journey to his African roots, and next to him is the king of 'The Source' which African Diasporans often come seeking, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade. Both graced the opening ceremony of the Global Conference of Black Nationalities in Osogbo on Monday 23 August and spoke. When King Sunny Ade started to chant the oriki (lineage praise) of the 81-year-old 'Oonirisa' as the ceremony drew to a close, the Ooni, clearly moved, rose from his seat on the high table and raised a fist in salute, holding the pose for nearly 5 minutes. It was quite something, and the gesture reminded me of the Black Panther salute of yore. As for Runoko Rashidi, I heard him say from the distant stage: "You're not African because you're born in Africa, you're African because Afrise is born in you" - and I thought, Wow! I was to meet the man responsible for that sentiment later in Iloko-Ijesa, Osun State, where we've been since Monday at another major conference, the International Colloquium on Slavery, Slave Trade and Their Consequences' (see Pelu Awofeso's photo of me with Rashidi, below; yes the CNN award winning travel writer Pelu Awofeso is also here, as are academics from all over the world). Rashidi, an electrifying speaker and persona, delivered his paper yesterday but I'm sad to say I missed it, having gone on another culture jaunt to Iragbiji, about which, more anon. Rashidi & Ooni's photo is by Tommy Adegbite, courtesy Osun State Government.

Osun State is the place to be this week. Three major international events are ongoing this week.

The week-long Global Conference of Black Nationalities opened in Osogbo on Monday August 23, with over 2,000 people (my estimate) in attendance. Name them, they were there - major Nigerian and Yoruba and international cultural and political figures. The crowd outside the WOCDIF Centre venue was nearly as large.
The International Colloquium on Slavery, Slave Trade and Their Consequences also kicked off same day at Iloko-Ijesa, Osun State and it's ongoing till tomorrow 27 August.
Tomorrow of course is the Osun Osogbo Festival.
These 3 major events also have smaller breakout programmes associated with them, some holding till Saturday 28th. So, if you're in Nigeria and haven't found your way here yet, it's not too late.

Araism Movement 7 in Abuja - September 7


…Celebrating Nigeria at 50

Araism Movement 7 opens in Abuja

Thought Pyramid Art Gallery,
62, Parakou Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja

Tuesday September 7, 2010
Time: 5pm

Exhibiting artists
Mufu Onifade, Abiola Mautin Akande, Oludotun Popoola, Abolore Awojobi, Oluwanbe Amodu, Esther Emmanuel, Kesa Babatunde, Jimoh Saliu Babatunde, George Egunjobi, Bolarinwa Olowo, Jonathan Imafidor, Odumbo Adeniran, Olukotun Temitope, Adegoke Akinola

For the first time since its inception in 2006, Araism Movement, founded by Mufu Onifade and joined by artists who share the same vision, journeys to Abuja in September for the seventh in its exhibition series. Originally designed to create a platform of annual artistic feast, the Movement has increased its tally of annual shows beyond one show per year. So far the Movement has between 2006 and March this year presented six shows to the appreciative publics. All past shows have been held in Lagos. The number of exhibiting artists has also increased from the initial six in 2006 to fourteen already screened for Abuja.

In the words of Mr. Bunmi Babatunde, Chairman, Universal Studios of Art who headed the Pane of Jurors, “In all, there were 88 works submitted by 15 artists. There was no regularity in the number of works submitted by each artist but submission per artist ranges between four and twelve works per artist. Sizes and thematic disposition also range from the repertoire of one artist to another.

“The task was to select a maximum of five works per artist. Terms of reference for the purpose of selection based on standard and artistic excellence was woven around unblemished use of technique, draughtsmanship, form, colour and various other elements and principles of Art. With this in mind the jury including Mr. Edosa Oguigo (President, Guild of Professional Fine Artists of Nigeria) and Mr. Oliver Enwonwu (Chaiman, Society of Nigerian Artists, Lagos State Chapter) as members, spent judicious time on each artist and his body of work. At the end of the tasking exercise, 40 paintings by 14 artists were selected from a large pool of 84 by 15 artists”.

This first outing of Araism Movement in Abuja is its own way of celebrating the 50th independence anniversary of Nigeria. It is an extension of the Thought Pyramid Art Gallery’s celebration of the same anniversary which it had begun in June this year. The celebration, according to Mr. Jeff Ajueshi, curator of the Gallery, “will continue till the end of the year”.

The exhibition will run till Friday September 17, 2010.

Araism Movement 7: Exhibition by Mufu Onifade et al - Thought Pyramid Art Gallery, 62 Paraku Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja. Opening 5pm, September 7. On till September 17.

International Art Expo Lagos

There’s over 400 works of art from about 30 galleries on display at the third International Art Expo Lagos, which opened in Lagos last Saturday at the National Museum, Onikan. The opening ceremony was chaired by Nduka Obaigbena, publisher of This Day Newspaper.

In the group picture below are children participants in the ‘Young at Heart’ programme of the Biodun Omolayo Gallery, based in the Onikan Museum complex. The kids were also at the opening ceremony, and some of the art pieces they created were on display for all to see.

In the other 2 pictures: the artist Nike Davies-Okundaiye; her daughters are in the other image.

The Art Expo closes on August 28, and there’s still time to get there and catch special events. A seminar is there today, with speakers like artist Sam Ovraiti and Richmond Ogolo (Director of the Art Barn, Ikeja, Lagos). Title of the seminar is ‘Plagiarism: The Question of Morality in Modern Art’.

There are lectures on August 28 by Goddy Leye (Coordinator, Art Bakery, Douala, Cameroon); and Shina Fagbenro, who will also be speaking on Plagiarism.

The International Art Expo Lagos closes Saturday 28th.

Photos: MW