Adebisi Akanji: Rebuilding a sculpture in Ọjà Oǹtótóo, the Marketplace (2013) by Saka AremuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
Art restoration is an art form in itself
The objective is to replicate exactly the original works of art and to ensure that the works will be a lasting legacy. One of the criterion of the UNESCO designation is that the site must be maintained in its original form.
Restoration: A New Team of Artists and ArtisansOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation
Who are the New Sacred Art Restoration Team Members?
Recruited and mentored by Sangodare Ajala, fourteen bricklayers, carpenters, artisans, labourers, men and women were transformed into a highly motivated restoration team, combining artistic talent, quality craftsmanship and dedication! Their role was to replicate the works created by the original New Sacred Art Movement artists.
How do you ensure that restoration replicates the originals?
Sangodare Ajala and Adebisi Akanji, both with a deep understanding of the original works of art, had been leading the restoration team.
Archival photographs of the original works were used as well.
More recently, the AOTF has also worked with the NGO CyArk to do 3D imagery of three of the main shrines and to to create a full catalogue of the art in the groves for future use.
Does UNESCO permit new works of art to be added?
One of the requirements of the UNESCO designation is that the Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves are protected and preserved in their original state. Alterations are only permitted if required to preserve an existing structure.
How do you ensure that the restored works of art will last?
1) Use only high quality materials
2) Minimize water penetration by creating drainage channels
3) Carry out routine repairs of cracks in the cement and anti-termite treatment of the wood sculptures
Two of the original sculptures prove that the theory works
Many of the shrines and sculptures required to be reconstructed completely. Only two major monuments remained in close to perfect condition after nearly fifty years: Ẹ̀là and Ṣànpọ̀nná.
The creation of both followed the three principles of building to last.
How were the shrine wall paintings restored?
Shrine wall paintings are a highly evolved, symbolic visual form which communicate messages to the deities.
The original NSA artists, Foyeke Ajoke and Songo Tundun, used emulsion paints but added traditional pigments during rituals.
Even so, over time they faded very badly.
Carrying on the tradition
Foyeke’s grandson, Kujenyo Kehinde Sango, who had been carried on his grandmother’s back while she created the original art in the late 1960s, was able to restore these important works of art, following the existing traces where possible.
Restored shrine paintings
Why is thatch not used on the roofs of the restored shrines?
Originally, the metal roof was covered each year with thatch made from elephant grass. Unfortunately, mainly due to the high cost and potential damage to the roofs, as well as the risk of fire in the dry season, thatch is no longer applied.
Ilédì Oǹtótóo: a Magnificent Centrepiece (1962/1968) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation
Traditional materials continue to be used
Traditional 'palm kernel' (the central rib of a palm frond) continues to be used to cover the underside of the roof and is installed by carpenters trained in this technique. It is fragile and must be treated regularly with high quality anti-termite solutions, as do all the wood sculptures.
Maintain not rebuild
Unlike in the past, where monuments like the Arch of the Flying Tortoise collapsed and had to be completely rebuilt, newly restored shrines will need only maintenance and minor repairs.
Igbó Orò Walls: during restoration (2006) by Ojewale AmooAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
THE NEW SACRED ART RESTORATION TEAM
Sangodare Ajala, Artist of the New Sacred Art Movement (1948 – 2021)
Adebisi Nurudeen: Lead Restoration Team Artist
Rabiu Abesu: Artist New Sacred Art Movement
Adeyemi Oseni: Restoration Artist
Raimi Taofik: Restoration Artist
Ajanaku Olatunji (late)
'Streetview' of the shrine paintings by Google
Julius Berger PLC
'Quotes' in the text are all by Susanne Wenger unless stated otherwise.
With special thanks to the Tolaram Group Plc., Julius Berger Plc.; The Republic of Austria; Femi Akinsanya; Ford Foundation; Lafarge Nigeria and many individual donors.
Find out more about the AOT/F’s work by visiting our website www.aot-aof.org
Your donations will support our continuing efforts to maintain and restore the works of art in the Sacred Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves. Thank you.