Explore the Ògbóni Shrine - Ilédì Oǹtótóo

The Ògbóni society is an ancient and important part of Yorùbá traditions.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: early photograph with thatched roof (1968/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

A masterpiece

Ilédì Oǹtótóo was created by Susanne Wenger, Adebisi Akanji and the New Sacred Art Movement in the Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves in the 1960s.
It serves as a meeting point for the Ògbóni, a traditional society associated with the Earth Deity.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: Sculpted Wooden High-Posts (1970s) by NSA artistsOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

This remarkable structure is composed of three enormous roofs which rise against the sky like giant lizards, representing the forces of the earth before mankind.

CyArk 3D Animation: Iledi OntotooAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Be amazed by the extent of the construction in this CyArk Animation.

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

Beneath the sloping roof of the left wing of the Ògbóni Shrine is a sculpture of the unique greeting gesture of the society’s members right next to the intricate depiction of a water lily. 

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: the waterlily (1968) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The intricate sculpture of the waterlily.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: Sculpted Wooden Posts (1968) by Susanne Wenger, Adbisi Akani and Kasali Akangbe-Ogun, Buraimoh Gbadamosi, Rabiu AbesuOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The centrepieces of Ilédì Oǹtótóo are the powerfully sculpted high posts that support the roof and symbolically protect the inner sanctum of the shrine. 

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: Ọbàtálá rising (1968/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Underneath the roof of the right wing, Ọbàtálá, the god of creation and light, rises from the white elephant’s forehead, symbolizing that divine transcendence originates from Mother Earth. 

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: Ọ̀ṣun Wave Wall Detail (1968/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

'Each shrine is a spiritual pilgrimage to psychic depth.'

The flow of the Ọ̀ṣun river and the connection between earth and water are seen and felt throughout the sculpted exterior and interior of this magnificent shrine.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: Entrance into the Shrine (1962/1968) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The entry to the shrine is underneath the middle roof and the doorway is in the shape of a giant paw print, referencing the connection of the Ògbóni society to the earth.

Iledi Ontotoo: Shrine Wall Painting in the Interior (1962/1968) by Foyeke Tundun and Sango TundunOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Shrine paintings send messages to the òrìṣà

The interior is richly decorated with wall-paintings, a symbolic visual art form typical to the Yorùbá.
The original paintings were created by  Foyeke Ajoke and Songo Tundun.
Foyeke’s grandson, Kujenyo Kehinde Sango, recreated these magnificent works of art in 2012.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo Shrine Paintings

Iledi Ontooto: Shrine Under Restoration (1962/1968) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

This shrine has had many restorations over the decades but had nearly completely collapsed when the New Sacred Art Restoration Team, led by Adebisi Akanji and Sangodare Ajala, rescued and rebuilt it in 2012.

Illedi Ontotoo: Clearing Away the Fallen Tree, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Illedi Ontotoo: Damage To Structure, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Serious damage caused by a fallen tree in 2020.

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

Restored again to its former glory

Luckily, the New Sacred Art Restoration Team, led by Nurudeen Adebisi, was able to restore the right wing of the shrine after the tree-damage.

Credits: Story

Curatorial Assistance: Molara Wood
Researcher: Akintayo Abodunrin

3D Animation by CyArk
360º view of shrine paintings by Google

PHOTOGRAPHY
AOT collection
Adolphus Opara
CyArk
Gert Chesi
Julius Berger PLC
Lesley Lababidi

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

With special thanks to Tolaram Group Plc; Julius Berger Plc. and the Goethe Institut of Nigeria.

Find out more about the work of the AOT/F 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.

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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