Ẹ káàbọ̀! Welcome to the Sacred Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves

Learn more about Nigeria's sacred Yorùbá site and meet the people keeping its spiritual, natural and artistic legacy alive.

Ọ̀ṣun Festival: Priestesses and Devotees at the Ọ̀ṣun River (2014)Original Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

A place of worship for Yorùbá devotees across the globe

Dedicated to Ọ̀ṣun, the deity of fertility, the Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves are a very important sacred site for followers of traditional Yorùbá religion in the world. Their cultural heritage extends across West Africa to Benin and Togo and beyond to Brazil, the Caribbean and the USA.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: left wing after restoration (1968/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

A UNESCO World Heritage Site: Yorùbá traditions – sacred art

Designated for its living cultural heritage and the shrines and monumental sculptures dedicated to Yorùbá deities, created by the artists of the New Sacred Art Movement. 

Map of NigeriaAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Located in Ọ̀ṣun State: heartland of the Yorùbá in Nigeria

The sacred groves are close to the centre of Òṣogbo, a city of about one million people and the capital of Ọ̀ṣun State. The Yorùbá are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria, concentrated in the southwestern part of the country. 

Sacred Groves of Òṣogbo: A Sitemap (2006/2022) by George B. Ejebare and AOT/FAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Important cultural and religious Site: uniquely preserved

In the past all Yorùbá towns had their own sacred forest. The Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves cover 75 hectares and are the only one of this size remaining. They were saved through the dedicated effort of its spiritual leaders and a movement of artists called the New Sacred Art Movement.

Welcome to the Sacred Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves (2022) by AOT/FAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Welcome

Come with us on a virtual walk through the groves

Ọ̀ṣun StatueOriginal Source: Helmut Wienerroither

The story of the goddess Ọ̀ṣun and her groves

According to the story of the town’s creation, the goddess Ọ̀ṣun formed a pact with the mythical founder of Òṣogbo, Lákọkan, that it should not be built on the riverbank but some distance away, leaving the groves as her sacred domain.

Susanne Wenger: sculpting Ọbàtálá (1964/1980) by Susanne WengerOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Shrines deteriorated and the city encroached

In the late 1950s, Ọ̀ṣun’s high priestess asked initiated priestess and artist Susanne Wenger, who lived in Òṣogbo, to help repair and protect the main Ọ̀ṣun shrine in the groves. Austrian born Wenger was already an accomplished artist in Europe before coming to Nigeria in 1950.

Ìyá Mọòpó: Post-Restoration (1967/1980) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Wenger founded the New Sacred Art Movement of Òṣogbo artists

Susanne Wenger mentored a group of Òṣogbo artists who – over more than six decades – created shrines, gates, boundary walls and awe-inspiring sculptures, all dedicated to Yorùbá deities.

New Sacred Art MovementAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Preservation and transformation through art

Many of the artists and artisans worked together for decades from the 1960s. There were about twelve core artists of the New Sacred Art Movement.
Adebisi Akanji and Susanne Wenger worked together continuously for more than forty years!

From left: Jinadu Oladepo, Saka Aremu, Adebisi Akanji, Rabiu Abesu, Susanne Wenger, Ojewale Amoo, Buraimoh Gbadamosi, Kasali Akangbe Ogun

Wildlife finds a Save Haven in the Osun Groves by CyarkOriginal Source: CyArk

Preservation of wildlife and flora

Through their efforts the site was declared a National Monument in 1965, making hunting, fishing and logging prohibited in order to protect all living beings. The flora and fauna of the Ọ̀ṣun Groves are unique and include over 400 species of plants and trees. 

Osun Festival: Dancing for Osun (2015/2015) by Akintunde AkinleyeOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Preservation of Yorùbá traditions

By preserving the shrines and the Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves, cultural traditions were reinforced. The shrines are visited daily by their designated priests and priestesses as well as by many devotees.

Ọ̀ṣun Festival: The PavilionOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The Ọ̀ṣun Festival: celebrated internationally

The annual Ọ̀ṣun Festival celebrates the original pact of the goddess Ọ̀ṣun with all her devotees and the King of Òṣogbo, the Atáọ́ja.
The festival attracts tens of thousands of people from Nigeria and across the globe. Ọ̀ṣun festivals are replicated in cities around the world.

Ìyá Mọòpó: repair worksAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Restoration of the shrines and sculptures

Maintenance and restoration are the main issues in keeping this important site preserved for Yorùbá devotees and visitors.
Since 2006, more than eighty shrines, sculptures and monuments have been restored by twenty-two members of the Restoration Team.

Restoration: A New Team of Artists and ArtisansOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The Adunni Olorisha Trust / Osun Foundation and restoration

The Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation (AOT/F) was first formed in 1998 to support the work of the original artists in the groves. Now this has been passed on to a talented restoration team led by the next generation of artists and enabled by the AOT/F. 

The Adunni Olorisha Trust / Osun Foundation is named after Susanne Wenger's Yorùbá name 'Àdùnní' meaning 'the one you like to have around you'; 'Olórìṣà' meaning 'one who is initiated in òrìṣà' and Ọ̀ṣun for the deity.
The name echoes our deep commitment to and respect for Yorùbá culture.

Credits: Story

VIDEO
CyArk
AOT Collection

MUSIC
Edaoto 


PHOTOGRAPHY

AOT collection
Akintunde Akinleye
Adolphus Opara
Carolyn Ristau
CyArk
Devesh Uba
Gerhard Merzeder
Helmuth Wienerroither
Karin Troy
Ulli Beier
Victor Adewale
Wolfgang Denk
Wolfgang Stoegermayer

Map of the Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves: George B. Ejebare; update by James A. Taylor

'Quotes' in the text are all by Susanne Wenger unless stated otherwise.

With special thanks to the Goethe-Institut Nigeria.

Find out more about the AOT/F’s work by visiting our website http://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.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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