The New Sacred Art Movement

Art inspired by the Òrìṣà

Walls, Gate and Stairs leading to Ojúbọ ÒṣogboAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

New Sacred Art - "Art is Ritual"

This movement of Òṣogbo artists draws on the Yorùbá rituals and spirits of the òrìṣà (deities), the power of nature and meditation, to create monumental shrines and sculptures in the Sacred Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves.
It was founded by Susanne Wenger in the early 1960s.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo under construction (1968/1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Asked by Yorùbá priests to restore the shrines, Wenger sought out people who “had the òrìṣà within them waiting to be aroused”.
Most were manual labourers in Òṣogbo who became artists - each with his or her own unique artistic language to communicate with the gods.  

Ìyá Mọòpó: Deity of Women's Professions (1967/1980) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The creative process was both a collaboration and deeply personal.
Susanne Wenger  nurtured each artist’s creativity.
The result was a radical departure from traditional Yorùbá aesthetics while maintaining the attributes essential to the representation of each Yorùbá deity.

Susanne Wenger: With Adebisi Akanji and his Son (late 1970s)Original Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Adebisi Akanji

Adebisi Akanji was Susanne Wenger’s closest associate, artistic leader and co-creator of many of the sculptures and shrines in the groves.
Originally a bricklayer, he became a master sculptor in cement, painter and batik artist and the Oluwo Atáọ́ja, an Ògbóni High Priest.

Sangodare with batikAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Sangodare Gbadegesin Ajala

He creates these batiks with wildness and an explosive power,
which are typical for the òrìṣà (deity) whose incarnation he is
Sangodare comes from a lineage of Ṣàngó (god of thunder) priests.
He was the leader and mentor of the New Sacred Art restoration team.

Buraimoh Gbadamosi with one of his stone carvingsAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Buraimoh Gbadamosi

Buraimoh Gbadamosi was originally trained as a tailor and carpenter before he met Susanne Wenger.
His magnificent, characteristic stone and wood sculptures have curvaceous figures with bulging eyes, typical of his style.

Rabiu AbesuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Rabiu Abesu

Rabiu is from a family of gbẹ́nagbẹ́na, traditional carvers of shrine objects but was no longer practicing - due to the dominance of Christianity and Islam - until he met Susanne Wenger.
Encouraged to carve with his own mode of expression, Rabiu creates remarkable wooden totems.

Kasali Akangbe with his carving of Oya and SangoAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Kasali Akangbe-Ogun

Kasali was born into a family lineage that had abandoned its woodcarving tradition for two generations. He joined the New Sacred Art team as a carpenter and evolved into a magnificent master woodcarver. His works exemplify modernity grounded in tradition.

Ojewale Amoo: New Sacred ArtistAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ojewale Amoo

A bricklayer by profession, Ojewale was one of the first members of the New Sacred Art Movement, recruited In 1958 by Susanne Wenger to work on Idi Ìdí Bàbá. Ojewale Amoo’s sculptures of the magnificent Egúngún Masquerades dominate the entry way to the groves.

Ojewale AmooAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ojewale Amoo

Standing on top of the original Egúngún Wall, his most iconic creation.

Saka Aremu: With His Creations in The Marketplace (1970) by Saka Aremu and 1967Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Saka Aremu

Saka Aremu was a bricklayer but quickly demonstrated his exceptional talent as a sculptor. The statue of the goddess Ọ̀ṣun is his signature masterpiece and he is the original creator of the figures in the 'Market Place', Ọjà Oǹtótóo.

Saka AremuAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Saka Aremu

With one of his original 'larger than life' sculptures on Ọjà Oǹtótóo, the 'Market Place'.

Ilédì Oǹtótóo : Shrine Paintings by Foyeke Ajoke and 1960sOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Foyeke Ajoke and Songo Tundun

Foyeke and Songo, two women, created  shrine paintings, traditionally a female domain in Yorùbá culture. This is a deeply symbolic artform, typical of the Yorùbá, which communicate messages to the gods. They used modern paint with traditional pigments added during rituals.

Ajibike Ogunyemi (1980s)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ajibike Ogunniyi

Ajibike was originally a blacksmith, who traditionally revere Ògún, the deity of Iron and War. 
He was drawn into making art in the 1960s and developed his talent creating decorative metal doors, window coverings, chairs and sculptures of deities.

Asiru Oladepo (1980s)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Asiru Oladepo

Asiru Oladepo created unique works telling stories of Yorùbá cosmology, traditions and everyday life in Òṣogbo using a technique of beaten metal, either aluminium or copper.  Susanne Wenger introduced him to this medium and encouraged him to interpret Yorùbá culture  through his art.

Jinadu Oladepo, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
NSA Shop Display, From the collection of: Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation
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Jinadu Oladepo was a brass and bronzecaster who made traditional ritual shrine objects in his own free flowing style. The process must adhere to rituals. “Even the fire must first worship Ògbóni so as to produce a potent object”. - Kikelomo Oladepo (his daughter).

New Sacred Art Movement: Group Photograph with Susanne Wenger (2000) by Gusti Merzeder-TaylorAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Susanne Wenger founded the movement, mentored and worked with the artists over the decades.
She helped them “find the divine in themselves” and turned bricklayers, carpenters and blacksmiths into artists of breathtaking creativity inspired by traditional religion. 

Credits: Story

Adolphus Opara
AOT Collection
Gerhard Merzeder
Gert Chesi
Helmuth Wienerroither
Wolfgang Denk

'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

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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