Restoration of the Shrines and Sculptures – A Constant Cycle of Renewal

Since its inception, the Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation has been working to preserve and restore the works of art in the Sacred Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves.

Ọlọ́mọyọyọ repairs (2000) by Saka AremuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Funds have always been scarce

Right from the beginning, Susanne Wenger funded the creation – and any necessary repairs – of the works in the groves through the sale of her art, but money was always scarce.

Ẹbu Ìyá Mọòpó - Chameleon Gate and Walls: damages (1970/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Creation and recreation

To save money, earth was often used as a core and covered with a layer of cement. When the works of art collapsed, the artists would rebuild them. Creation and recreation were part of the artistic and spiritual journey.

Ojúbọ ÒṣogboAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Major repairs were soon desperately needed

As Susanne Wenger got older, the maintenance and repair works in the groves slowed down and then stopped altogether. Many of the structures deteriorated quickly in the harsh climatic conditions. In 2008 the AOT/F raised the first major funds for restoration on a large scale.

Ogun and entourage: Restoration Work on walls: Repairs and Training in Progress (1970/1980) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Members of the NSA movement came together again

The surviving original artists of the movement reassembled. Sangodare Ajala, New Sacred Art Movement leader,  lead the team together with Adebisi Akanji, who had co-created most of the major shrines and sculptures in the groves with Susanne Wenger.

Adeyemi Oseni and Bintu Lamidi: Restoration WorkAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Old colleagues reunite

The team included New Sacred Art artists Saka Aremu, Ojewale Amoo, Buraimoh Gbadamosi, Nurudeen Akanji as well as artisan Adeyemi Oseni and labourer Bintu Lamidi - both shown here.

Ìyá Mọòpó: repair worksAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Built to last

This time the works of art were created to last and only top quality cement, iron reinforcement and correct ratios of cement to sand were used. Material experts confirmed that with routine maintenance and attention to drainage, the restored works of art will last a long time.

Saka Aremu: Restoring the Chameleon Gate Wall (1970/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Time stops for no man

But sadly, many of the elderly artists and artisans became too infirm to work and even more sadly, others died. Saka Aremu, Ojewole Amoo and Buriamoh Gbadamosi were eventually no longer able to contribute. The knowledge was then held by only two surviving New Sacred Art artists.

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

Save Our Art! Save Our Heritage!

The transfer of knowledge from the surviving elders, Adebisi Akanji and Sangodare Ajala, to a new generation was critical.
In 2015 the 'Save Our Art! Save Our Heritage!' campaign was launched by the AOT/F.

Video: Save Our Art! Save Our Heritage! CampaignAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

In 2015 the 'Save Our Art! Save Our Heritage!' campaign was launched under the chairmanship of Olufemi Akinsanya.

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

A new restoration team is recruited and trained

Sangodare Ajala recruited and mentored the new team.The recruits were bricklayers, carpenters and labourers. Some were related to the original artists, others showed a keen interest and talent. All respected the significance of the groves and the work they were called upon to do

Ọjà Oǹtótóo: During Restoration by Saka AremuOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Mentorship role passes from father to son

The skills of all the new apprentices matured and developed under the guidance of Sangodare Ajala.
Adebisi Akanji provided technical and artistic training assisted by his son, Adebisi Nurudeen and Adeyemi Oseni, one of the original NSA artisans.

Walls near the Gate leading to Ojúbọ Òṣogbo: Cleaning after restoration (1960/1965) by Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Boundary Walls

Most of the walls were originally built to mark the boundaries of the different groves, in Yorùbá called igbó and to protect the òrìṣà’s private spheres.

These are the walls around Ojúbọ Òṣogbo after restoration in 2017.

Ọjà Oǹtótóo: Repair of the Statues (1967/1970) by Saka AremuOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

A lot has been achieved

So much has been achieved: a New Sacred Art Restoration Team fully trained; 18 major shrines and sculptures restored; 1500 meters of decorative walls restored and more than 60 sculptures returned to their original beauty.

Ọ̀ṣun Búsanyìn (early 1970s) by Susanne Wenger and NSA artistsOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

So much more to do!

All the other shrines and sculptures in the groves need to be maintained as well.
Though built to last, they are in a forest: trees will fall; the Ọ̀ṣun river will flood; heavy rain will cause erosion - routine maintenance is therefore absolutely essential.

THE NEW SACRED ART RESTORATION TEAM

LEADER

Sangodare Ajala, Artist of the New Sacred Art Movement (1948 – 2021)

ADMINISTRATOR
Toyin Ajayi

ARTISTS

Adebisi Nurudeen: Lead Restoration Team Artist
Rabiu Abesu: Artist New Sacred Art Movement
Adeyemi Oseni: Restoration Artist
Raimi Taofik: Restoration Artist

ARTISANS
Afada Musibao
Bintu Lamidi
Oladunni Keshinro
Ajayi Adeyemi
Toheeb Adebisi
Ojewale Tunrayo
Oguntoye Lekan
Wasiu Oyebanji
Sodiq Adebisi
Abimbola Kenny

SHRINE PAINTER
Kujenyo Kehinde

CARPENTER
Lamidi Fatai
Ajanaku Olatunji (late)

Credits: Story

VIDEO
CyArk

PHOTOGRAPHY
Abiodun Omotoso
Carolyn Ristau
CyArk
Devesh Uba
Julius Berger PLC
Karin Troy

With special thanks to the Goethe Institut Nigeria.

We thank the Tolaram Group Plc, Julius Berger Plc, the Republic of Austria, Lafarge Africa Plc., Ford Foundation, Olufemi Akinsanya and generous individuals for making these restorations possible.

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.

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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