Archives for category: The Tourist Trail


His paintings adorn the walls of art collectors and galleries all over the world. His work is admired by statesmen and enthusiasts far and wide. On a perfect  day in August, I found myself  in the company of Gbolade Omidiran- artist of great talent and extraordinary success. Read the rest of this entry »

Much has been written about the sacred status of Ile -ife; “the cradle” of the Yoruba race.There are myths and legends, there is history and folklore, there is a cultural earnestness which permeates every day living in this ancient city.

I was drawn to  Akire Temple at Ilare compound. In the summer of 2017, the University of African Art  brought its GownTown initiative to Ile-Ife. Led by Prof Moyo Okediji and Dr Oluseyi Ogunjobi, Akire Temple became a location for a workshop on  art.

Images of men, women and children engaging with  traditional skills;   preparing indigo dye for adire textiles, using natural  pigments to paint and collaborate  on artwork was inspiring to see.

And so it was. I spent an afternoon at Akire Temple with Oba Akire and Olori Aderonke.

The conversations were lively. We spoke about the history of Orisha Akire and it’s relevance for the people of Ile-Ife and the descendants of Akire all over the world.

I was fascinated by the visual artistic display all around me. Beautifully bright traditional textiles:  Adire Eleko, Adire Kiko, Adire Alabere, painting on fabrics and the cosmic wall murals and sand paintings.

A temple dedicated to the practice of Yoruba traditional religion used as an artistic, social  and cultural space was a dynamic idea. It reinforced for me the view that Yoruba traditional religion and the expression of Yoruba culture are often inseparable.  I scrutinized  the murals on the shrine walls.

These are sacred paintings.  They reflect the deep observational nature of the Yoruba people and the importance of symbolic motifs. Traditionally done by a guild of women shrine painters of Akire shrine, these small and large symbols, shapes, and geometric designs filled the outer walls of Akire shrine.

Ile Ife is a spiritual place.  Everywhere you look, from the palace to the ancient groves, Yoruba culture is profuse. You see it in the festivals, the monuments dotted around the town and the symbolic objects which resonate with meaning and reverence.

However, through reclaiming sacred spaces like Akire temple for artistic and cultural activities, we create opportunities for even more awareness of the richness of Yoruba heritage and indigenous knowledge.

It is important to value what we have.

Opportunities which knit together indigenous artistic knowledge and traditional religion acts like culture conduits. They connect women, men and entire families to their Yoruba lineage, ancestry, heritage and identity.

 

Everyday there are worlds waiting to be found. If you are persistent and with a bit of luck, you may find a few exceptional ones. In a quiet corner of Ibadan, I found Tunde Odunlade.

Criss-crossing the sprawling city, It took a while to find  him, but we did. We were swept into the hands of an artist totally involved with the idea of ” art with a purpose in nation building”.

He welcomed us like old friends and we wandered into his world without walls.

Warm, witty, intelligent, creative and erudite, Odunlade is an exceptional artist and a charming host. An Ife prince, Odunlade moved from Ile-Ife to Ibadan in the 70’s.



With over 42 years as a successful textile and fiber art specialist, his style is engaging and diverse.  Floatographs. Bartiking, marbling caligraphy and Adire. Beading on textiles and beaded appliqués. But there is more.

Intricate and intriguing, Odunlade wants you to enjoy the beauty and creativity in his soul but not without thinking about yours.

We talked about “Oju Inu, agba oye” , Odunlade’s upcoming exhibition at University of Ibadan’s Institute of African Studies on the end of August 2017.

This exhibition takes as its premise the Yoruba proverb : “Oye lagba wo, iriri sagba ohun gbogbo” which means the elderly seeks first to understand while experience supersedes all things.

Hence, ” Oju inu, agba Oye” takes us on a journey. It examines the indigenous  knowledge of the Yoruba people passed down through the generations in proverbs, idioms, folklore and traditional skills such as Adire . This knowledge is enriching, the basis for the understanding and value of self.

With pieces like “Oya goddess of the wind” and “Oduduwa”, the examination of Yoruba mythology and heritage is inherent in many of the pieces.

When you consume Odunlade’s  art, you must engage with your social, and political consciousness- your place and purpose in society. Each piece evoked particular ideas.  The failure of the Nigerian state. Underdevelopment in Africa. The colonial legacy. Yoruba history and Heritage. Karma and consciousness.

Very quickly, I realised that I would have to keep up with the dexterity of Odunlade’s intellect and prolific creativity.

This  art has travelled the world. Odunlade  had shared his vision with audiences at  the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, the  Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Jordan museum of Art and many more.

His work  resonates.

It draws attention by its range of techniques, its beauty and its embedded narratives. For a few hours, I was driven into a world of absolute synergy between artist and his art.

Beyond aesthetics, Odunlade wants you affected. This is not art for the fun of it. This is art that speaks to you about your intentions, motivations  and your everyday interactions with the world in which you live.

I am glad Tunde Odunlade invited me to his home and allowed me to travel with him into his visionary world.

 

 

I couldnt take my eyes off the horizon.
Blue and magnificent, the Atlantic stretched leisurely in the distance. Fishing boats rested, quiet and aloof under the coconut trees.

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Blue skies. Jet skies. Coconuts and fishermen floating down the Volta. Barbecues. Boat rides and buffets. A day of perfect memories at  the Aqua Safari Resort , Ada.
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I am always impressed with New York City.

In Manhatten, everything seems larger than life. The buildings loom gigantic in the sky, the billboards create a fairytale sidewalk and the shops spill open with the most wondrous wares. Read the rest of this entry »

I was warmed by the twinkle in her eyes. Playful and assured, Iya Alakun cajoled me to buy even more beads as she spoke of the significance of “akun” in the culture of the Yoruba people. I sat down. Read the rest of this entry »

Shakespeare described the world as a stage. The Yorubas describe the world as a market. The Yoruba phrase “oja ni aye” is loaded with metaphorical and spiritual  connotations. Read the rest of this entry »

As strains of the popular  gospel anthem: ” Jesus Na You Be Oga” filtered  from speakers all around the bus, I was determined to keep up.  I joined in, gyrating and singing along as loudly as  everybody else. Inside this luxurious bus meandering its way from Lagos to Accra, the atmosphere was electric; alive with loud, warm voices and many heads bobbing from side to side.


Soon, my attention was drawn  to something else. From the front of the bus came an tumult of voices. I  eased forward in my seat a little anxiously. Then I smiled.

I knew the heart and soul of these  voices well. Quite simply, I often described them as The Forum. If you have ever found yourself standing by a newspaper vendor on a busy junction or roadside in Nigeria, teasing the headlines and watching others gather to do the same, then you might begin to understand the intensity of a social phenomena  like The Forum.

Where two or three people are gathered  to discuss,  express their  unrestrained views on the latest political or celebrity scandal,  football scores or news headlines, you have a powerful mix of energies and ideas.

In Nigerian society, as with all societies, gatherings of this kind are in many ways an absolute necessity. They serve a great need. People have to express themselves especially when faced  with a future which seems to diminish everyday.  This spontaneous and unscripted outpouring in itself is a perfect way for the individual to let off steam. However, the forum is a bit more than this. When most things around you defy all logical reasoning, you crave the company of other people to affirm your own sanity. There is indeed empowerment in numbers.

As I listened to this group of young Nigerian students travelling back to university in Ghana debating with the more restrained voices of seasoned traders, it occurred to me that Nigerians are definitely the most energetic people I know.  Despite what seemed like diverse opinions and  generational differences, the need to speak out and expel strong emotions created an undeniable pull, drawing perfect strangers together . We are all Nigerians in various states of discontent but our passion for a better Nigeria united us even if only for a few restless hours.

It is is where you can test the strength of  your opinions, make other people’s opinions your own, test the depth, volume and timbre of  your voice and most importantly let off steam! For a great atmosphere though, you need a few  important ingredients: naturally gregarious people fermenting with many cantekerous issues and of course… time.

I have seen this before- an ad hoc collectionof voices seemlessly gather and merge into a  formidable vocal formation- on airplanes, airport lounges, in queues waiting for the bus and most especially at the impenetrable wall of people cramped together inside and outside the bank at the end of the month.

And now I wasn’t to be disappointed.  Here we were again.  Another gathering to keep us human on this long distance road trip from Lagos to Accra. I watched the group, further intrigued.

A few hours earlier  we all sat at Yaba  bus park, complete strangers. Now you wouldn’t know it. Eyes have brightened and faces widened with laughter.  Voices are  different too. Some are raised with that unmistakable swagger of a generation who feel connected to the promise of a vibrant future; one mostly fed by the images and stories  which pour forth from the oracles of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and  YouTube.

As I strained to hear  snatches of conversation, I was reminded of many  other forums like this all over Nigeria and indeed in the diaspora. Nigerians like myself with many different voices, in  many different places mostly saying the same things.  Voices asking questions and trying  to proffer solutions  at the same time. Voices  bewildered and hurt, watching a country cascading with such beauty and brilliance continue to move astern without much hope of anything else.

“Muyi shi Gwari Gwari” a popular Hausa expression means-let’s do it like the Gbagyi or in the Gbagyi way.

This sums up the temperament of the Gbayi people, an hospitable, indigenous community who live very much in harmony with their natural environment. 45km from the city of Abuja, is Ushafa village, home to the Gbayi people of Northern Nigeria.

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