Chief Rabiu Abesu - A Gifted Sculptor in Wood

Chief Rabiu AbesuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ritual carving lineage: interrupted, then renewed

Rabiu was born in 1940 into a family of gbẹ́nagbẹ́na - carvers of sacred objects. However, the trade had halted due to the decline of the Yorùbá traditional religion. So the young Rabiu became a farmer and carpenter. 

Susanne Wenger with Adebisi Akanji and Rabiu Abesu on Oja OntotooAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

He joined Susanne Wenger in 1960 as a carpenter but was soon encouraged to use his creativity.  'I started woodcarving when Susanne Wenger told me that I had the ability to become an artist in woodcarving.' 

Chief Rabiu AbesuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

'Astonishing surrealistic view'

'Rabiu draws on his deep cultural heritage but portrays the deities in a dramatic, modern form'. (Susanne Wenger)

Susanne Wenger HouseAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

''My inspiration comes to me as a gift from God. The gift is my two inner eyes which always reveal to me what to carve.'  (Rabiu Abesu)

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: Sculpted Wooden Posts (1968/1975) by NSA artistsOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Rabiu creates carved posts, doors and statues

His works adorn many shrines throughout the sacred groves.

Susanne Wenger’s House: New Sacred Art at the main entrance (1965/1980) by Rabiu Abesu, Adebisi Akanji, Buraimoh GbadamosiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Yorùbá deities are his main subjects

'I try to show their characters, behavioural patterns and messages'.

Chief Rabiu AbesuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Rabiu continues to create magnificent art in his home today

'I do my original carved work for future posterity and the advancement of traditional culture'.

Chief Rabiu AbesuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

A distinctive style

Rabiu tends to portray the deities with large drooping jowls.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo: carved wooden post by Rabiu Abesu (1968/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

His legacy will live on in the Sacred Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves and hopefully inspire a future generation to appreciate Yorùbá traditions and New Sacred Art.

Credits: Story

PHOTOGRAPHY
AOT/F Collection
CyArk
Erika Cramer
Gert Chesi
Helmuth Wienerroither
Wolfgang Denk
Wolfgang Stoegermayer

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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