Writings of the general word's body

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.

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