Adebisi Akanji is one of the leading figures of the New Sacred Art Movement founded by Susanne Wenger in Osogbo in the sixties. Akanji had been trained as a young man to fashion cement decorations for the elaborate 'Brazilian' baroque building style. He participated in art workshops run by Susanne Wenger, Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier in the early 1960s and showed enormous interest and talent in this new direction. Wenger took Akanji under her wing, and he joined her in creating the monumental sculptures standing in the Osun Grove to this day.
Working with Wenger over several decades allowed the former bricklayer to develop his incredible artistic talent to a very high level, while he also helped her refine her technique in working with cement.
Wenger described their process thus: "I give Adebisi the story, the association he needs. With my hands I express the forms. I never draw a plan. Adebisi then portrays my gestures with the wall and pillars he raises in red mud and cement. I let him work for some hours by himself. Often his work expresses exactly what I have in mind. Sometimes I tell him we must start again. This never upsets him. He is always ready to listen again. He always comes back with new enthusiasm." (The Return of the Gods; Ulli Beier; p.92.)
In addition to the works the Grove, Adebisi Akanji has applied his considerable talent to batiks, sensitive drawings in pen and ink and paintings. Significantly, he developed the talent of his son, Nurudeen, who shares his father’s artistic abilities.
Adebisi Nurudeen had become the lead artist doing the restoration in the Grove by 2018, when ill-health prevented the older Adebisi from continuing his life's work. Until then, Akanji had played an extremely important leadership role in the restoration of cement sculptures and monuments in the Sacred Grove from 2008 onwards. He was in great demand for commissioned work throughout his career, and some of these included: The National Black Theatre in Harlem in New York City, The Centre for the former President, Obasanjo, in Abeokuta, Nike Art Gallery in Osogbo and elsewhere, as well as Mydrim Gallery and decoration on houses in Lagos. Adebisi Akanji has exhibited widely in Europe, the USA and in Brazil. He is a traditionalist and leader within the Ogboni Society.


  • Title: Adebisi Akanji
  • Date Created: 2019
  • Photographer: CyArk
  • Date of photography: 2019

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