Meet the Goddess of All That is Female: Ìyá Mọòpó

“Ìyá Mọòpó is the goddess of pottery and all women’s crafts. At the same time, in her eternally feminine, virtual aspect, she is the mother of all the gods”. (Susanne Wenger)

Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The majestic sculptures on the Sacred Potter Field in the Osun Grove

Ìyá Mọòpó: An Early Photograph (1967/1980) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

A potent symbol of female power

Created by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi Akanji, this powerful depiction of Ìyá Mọòpó is more than fourteen meters in height and her legs stretch over sixty-five meters long.  It is one of the finest examples of the work and vision of the new Sacred Art Movement.

Ìyá Mọòpó – The Power of Women (2021) by Olusola Otori and Molara WoodAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ìyá Mọòpó – The Power of Women

Video by Olusola Otori

Ìyá Mọòpó: Her Three Pairs of Arms (1977) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Towering Imagination

Ìyá Mọòpó is shown with three pairs of hands: one for blessing, another for advice, and a third symbolising regret. Two birds, atíálá and àtíòro, are her messengers and represent the circle of life; her enormous wings allow her to fly. 

Iya Moopo: Sculpture and the Divine (2013)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ìyá Mọòpó

This is a representation of the goddess, Ìyá Mọòpó as a shrine in which holy forces and holy waters accumulate.
The shrine is inside her torso which contains a spiral staircase  in the shape of the sacred snail shell.

Adebisi Akanji: A Leading Figure of New Sacred Art Movement (2020) by Abiodun OmotosoAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Artist Adebisi Akanji on creating Ìyá Mọòpó

'When we saw her in the dream we discovered that she had more than two hands that we human beings have. She uses one hand to produce palm-oil, another to make pots and the other to spin cotton wool. That is why we made her to have many hands. We just felt that at this place it is okay for it.'

Ìyá Mọòpó – 3D Animation (2019) by CyArkAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ìyá Mọòpó in her full glory

3D Animation by CyArk
Bàtá-drumming by Ayan Sipe recorded  in Susanne Wenger's House, 1980.

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

The Chameleon Gate leading to Ẹbu Ìyá Mọòpó

Ìyá Mọòpó resides in Ẹbu Ìyá Mọòpó (the Sacred Potter Field). Guarding this area is the Chameleon Gate. The long spoke tapering skywards represents the Chameleon’s tail holding up the New Moon. All must pass underneath this primordial creature to enter into Ìyá Mọòpó’s domain.

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

The Chameleon Gate from the inside

The chameleon is celebrated in Yorùbá creation mythology as the first creature to step onto the earth and with ‘Its prehensile tail and tongue holds up the new moon and the sun.’

Sanponna: Deity of Smallpox and Infectious DiseasesOriginal Source: CyArk

Alájere – Alájogun – Ọbalúayé

Ẹbu Ìyá Mọòpó, the Sacred Potter Field, contains three spectacular works of art.  This sculpture represents the multiple dimensions of Ṣànpọ̀nná. His hands are raised in supplication to Olódùmarè, who is understood as the God.

Ẹ̀là: Sculpture at Ẹbu Ìyá Mọòpó (1975) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Ẹ̀là

This slender sculpture is more than eight meters in height and represents Ifá, the blind god of divination, as a youth who acts as an intermediary between human beings and the òrìṣà (deities). Ẹ̀là is in perfect balance with its surroundings.

Ìyá MọòpóAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Major restoration works

Water penetrated the sculpture and it was on the verge of collapsing. With Adebisi Akanji and Sangodare Ajala taking the lead, the restoration team brought Ìyá Mọòpó back to her former glory! 

Iya Moopo: Deity of Women’s Professions Inspires Visitors (1967/1977) by Susanne Wenger and Adebisi AkanjiOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Restored to last

With the excellent materials used, the workmanship and artistry of the restoration team, this remarkable work of art will continue to stand guard over the groves into the future.

Ìyá Mọòpó as seen from aboveAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The sculpture seen from above

It shows her wings on the left and her extended legs at the top right.

Ìyá Mọòpó outline (2019) by CyArkAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ìyá Mọòpó

As a 3D model, revealing the whole extent of the sculpture.

Credits: Story

3D Animation and models: CyArk


Bàtá drumming by Ayan Sipe recorded by Victor Manfredi in Susanne Wenger's House, 1980

VIDEO: Sola Otori Films
Video Production and Curatorial Assistance: Molara Wood

PHOTOGRAPHY
AOT collection
Abiodun Omotoso
Adolphus Opara
CyArk
Devesh Uba
Gerhard Merzeder
Gert Chesi
Helmuth Wienerroither
 
'Quotes' in the text are all by Susanne Wenger unless stated otherwise.
 
Credit for quote on slide 5:  - ‘Osogbo and the Art of Heritage: Monuments, Deities, and Money’ by Peter Probst.

With special thanks to the Goethe-Institut Nigeria.

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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