The Home of Ọbàtálá – The Deity of Creation

Alájere Path: Ọbàtálá StatueAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ọbàtálá – the Yorùbá Deity of Light and Creation.

'As an animal he is the white bull-elephant and also the python; he is the personification of transcendental white light; white is the summation of all colours in light, and Ọbàtálá is the sum of all ethical tendencies of the religion.' 

Cliff below the Ọbàtálá Shrine and StaircaseAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Three shrines for Ọbàtálá

The Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex is composed of three separate buildings, the furthest on the right is home to the statue of Ọbàtálá and under the middle one the sacred symbols of Olúfọ́n and Ògìnyán – two branches of Ọbàtálá worship – are buried.

Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex (late 1970s) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Ayé Dákun Yípadà

The taller shrine on the left is Ayé Dákun Yípadà.
Its name was translated into English as ‘World I beg you to reconsider your ways’. It is the shrine of the òrìṣà Ajagẹmọ. 

Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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The original Ayé Dákun Yípadà building of the early 1960’s was destroyed by religious fanatics and only photographs remain (photo on the left). Susanne Wenger then created a new shrine in its place: 'The entire façade of the building is sculptured into two enormous faces, representing Ọbàtálá and Ṣàngó". (Ulli Beier)

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The sculpture of Ọbàtálá

The statue of the deity of creation stands in the shrine on the far right (as seen from the road).

Susanne Wenger sculpting Ọbàtálá (1970s) by Susanne WengerAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The statue of Ọbàtálá

This statue was sculpted by Susanne Wenger in the early 1970's. She was by then initiated priestess and devotee of Ọbàtálá.

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The Flower Altar

The Flower Altar is part of the intricately sculpted interior of the shrine.

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The Flower Altar

As described by Susanne Wenger in her own handwriting on the photograph: 'Altar for the flower-dimension of all souls, specially of children as angels'. (translated from German)

Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Elaborately sculpted walls and passageways inside the shrine.

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Passageway inside the shrine.

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Major Repair works were required

Beginning in 2006, major repair works were undertaken by members of the New Sacred Art Movement - Sangodare Ajala, Adebisi Akanji, Ojewale Amoo and Saka Aremu were the lead  artists.

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

A team effort

The members of the New Sacred Art Movement were ably assisted by  Adeyemi Oseni, Nurudeen Adebisi and many artisans as most of the whole structure had to be rebuilt.

Ọbàtálá Shrine ComplexAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Restored to its former glory

A view of the Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex after major repairs were finished in 2009.

Around the Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex are various early cement sculptures by Susanne Wenger depicting elements of the deity's attributes.

Cement sculptures around the Ọbàtálá Shrine, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Cement sculptures around the Ọbàtálá Shrine, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Cement sculptures around the Ọbàtálá Shrine, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex: After Restoration, Susanne Wenger, Adeyemi Oseni, 1962/1964, Original Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation
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These two sculptures located in front of the Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex are examples of Susanne Wenger’s earliest works of art in the groves. They represent both the male and female principles of Ọbàtálá (the deity of light and creation).

Susanne Wenger: sculpting early cement figures, Susanne Wenger, 1962/1964, Original Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation
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Cement sculptures around the Ọbàtálá Shrine, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Cement sculptures around the Ọbàtálá Shrine, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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There used to be many more, but some have been lost whilst others were restored.

More than six decades of erosion and roadworks have increased the height of the cliff below the shrine from less than 1.5 metres to more than 5 metres.

Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex: Ayé Dákun Yípadà, Susanne Wenger, 1970s, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Cliff below the Ọbàtálá Shrine and Staircase, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Notice the difference in the height of the cliff below the shrine complex.

The erosion was putting the shrines at the top of it at risk and it also made it very difficult for devotees to access the Shrine Complex.

Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex: Restoration Against Erosion (2017/2017) by Adebisi Akanji and Adebisi NurudeenOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

A solution to last

This staircase was part of a larger project to shore up the earth walls below the shrines to protect the cliff from further erosion. The cliff walls  were reinforced with wire mesh and concrete and decorated with images of devotees, animals and sacred symbols.

Ọbàtálá Shrine Complex (1964/1980) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Ayé Dákun Yípadà - 'World I beg you to reconsider your ways’

For the Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation there remains the hope that one day 'the world will reconsider their ways'.

Credits: Story

PHOTOGRAPHS
Adolphus Opara
AOT/F Collection
Carolyn Ristau
CyArk
Devesh Uba
Gert Chesi
Helmuth Wienerroither
Susanne Wenger private archive
Ulli Beier*
Wolfgang Denk

* ⓒ Ulli Beier Photographic Estate. Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU). Oshogbo, Nigeria & Iwalewahaus, University of Bayreuth, Germany

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

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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