Lamidi Fakeye: Exploring Yoruba Mythology through Art

A look at the works of one of the most prominent Yoruba woodcarvers.

Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

Jagunjagun (I) (2007) by Lamidi FakeyeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

Lamidi Fakeye was born in 1928 in Ila Orangun, Nigeria, into a family line of woodcarvers. He began his training as an apprentice to his father in 1938 and would later go on to be mentored by a catholic priest. He joined the faculty of University of Ife in 1978. He served as the artist-in-residence at a number of universities in the USA and died in 2009.

House post with warrior and fertility figure
His works, largely of Yoruba mythology, depict some of the beliefs still being held today in various royal settings across the Yoruba land. This explains why works of Fakeye and some other carvers are used as part of architectural aesthetics in palaces and buildings of some elite.

Ayan (god of music) (2007) by Lamidi FakeyeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

The God of Music
Notice the god of Music in motion beating the traditional gangan drum....

....with the child clinging and enjoying the melodies.....

....and the musician above blowing a horn.

Arubga Osun (2006) by Lamidi FakeyeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

Arugba Carrier Osun

Arugbas, the calabash carriers for the gods, are normally either young virgins or middle aged women, in few cases old women and at times young or old men.

Ìlàrí Sàngó (2008) by Lamidi FakeyeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

Ìlàrí Sàngó
All sub-courts of Oyo had Ilari who acted as both spies and taxmen.

Sango is the god of thunder in ancient Yoruba Kingdoms. This work depicts an Ilari Sango.

Sàngó (2008) by Lamidi FakeyeYemisi Shyllon Museum of Art, Pan-Atlantic University

Sàngó
The ancestral Sàngó, in Yoruba chronology, was the fourth king of ancient Oyo town who is regarded and revered as a major deity of the indigenous religion of the Yoruba people. He is popularly known as the god of thunder, fire and lightening as these are the natural forces associated with him.

On his hand is his most prominent ritual symbol called Oshe, a double-headed battle-axe which is a symbol of war and justice. Beneath his feet is a devotee prostrating as a sign of his loyalty.

Beneath his feet is a devotee prostrating as a sign of his loyalty

Behind him is a bata drum player praising and cheering him on with music as he wields his power.

Notice the dog, which is also a strong spiritual symbol in Yoruba culture, beside him.The worship of Sango is still common in parts of Yoruba land today.

Jagunjagun (I) (2007) by Lamidi FakeyeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

Olumeye
A woman with a child fastened to her back, kneeling in prostration, bearing the gift of a huge cork in appreciation to the creator for his good deeds

Olúmèye (2007) by Lamidi FakeyeOriginal Source: Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art

Her neck is richly adorned with bead necklaces. Her hair-do is a traditional style known in Yoruba as the sùkú. Her ears are styled with beautiful necklaces. These are signs that she is probably of noble birth or from a royal background.

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Credits: Story

Michael Oseghale: Museum Manager
Tolulope Odeyemi: Program Manager, GAC

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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