Image Credit: Glasgow Museums
In January 1962, the Mbari Club (later to become Mbari Mbayo) opened with the performance of Duro Ladipo’s play Oba Moro at his residence. Duro Ladipo (1931-1978), the teacher, composer and playwright had asked the German art educator and writer, Ulli Beier (1922-2011), who had been involved in running an art and culture club in Ibadan, to help set up a similar club in Oshogbo at Ladipo’s ‘Popular Bar’, a drinking spot that Ladipo ran at night in the compound of his house. Six months later, Ulli Beier initiated the first of the series of experimental art workshop that gave birth to the revolutionary Oshogbo School.
The Oshogbo workshop, unlike the Ibadan workshop for art teachers and artists, was for people with no artistic training and little formal education. The first workshop was an open house affair where the young and old stopped-by to draw with the material supplied and left again. Most of the promising participants were members of Duro Ladipo’s theater group. Following the success of the first workshop two more workshops were held in 1963 and 1964.
A lot has been written about some of the products of these informal workshops, especially the Fantastic Four of Oshogbo: Twins Seven Seven (Taiwo Olaniyi), Muraina Oyelami, Rufus Ogundele and Jimoh Buraimoh. But many others are rarely mentioned. Here are 10 adventurous artisans-turned artists that you might not know emerged from the Oshogbo experiment .
- James Adedayo
He specialized in printmaking. He also did film etching, metal embossing, candle prints, plaster prints, and batik. He established the Oshogbo Afro Art & Research Centre, Oshogbo, a center for artists to work, exhibit and research.
Solo Exhibitions: Paa-Ya-Paa Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya 1972; Ori-Olokun Cultural Centre, University of Ife, Ile-Ife, 1972; National Art Centre, Budapest, Hungary, 1973; Whitney Young Resource Centre, USIS, Lagos, March 1977.
- Adeyinka Adeyemi, Graphic Artist, Painter, Textile Artist
He joined the Duro Ladipo National Theatre in 1963 and travelled with them to the Berlin Festival of Arts in Germany in 1964 and to the Commonwealth Festival of Arts in Britain in 1965. He also acted in the filming of Wole Soyinka’s play “Kongi’s Harvest,” in 1970
He was a participant in workshop conducted by Professor Irein Wangboje at Ori-Olokun Cultural Center, University of Ife and the graphic art workshop conducted by Ru van Rossem, Institute of African Studies, University of Ife, 1973. He also conducted an art workshop for batik and graphics at the Muzejski Prostror, Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1985.
Solo Exhibitions: Institute of African Studies, University of Ife, Ile-Ife, 1970; USIS Auditorium, Lagos, 1971; Goethe Institute, Lagos, March 1975.
- Yekini Atanda, Textile Artist
He conducted a workshop at the Afro-American Educational Center, Teaneck, New Jersey, USA in 1977 and pioneered use of wax instead of starch paste for resist. He also became the curator at Ife University Museum of Antiquity, Oshogbo Branch.
Solo Exhibition: Afro-American Cultural Center, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, 1975.
- Tijani Mayakiri, Graphic Artist
He joined the Duro Ladipo Theatre Company as actor and dancer in 1962. And he traveled with them to the Berlin Theatre Festival, 1964 and Commonwealth Festival, England in 1965. He helped form the Ogun Timehin art workshop, Ile-Ife, an association of Oshogbo artists in 1973 and subsequently, worked with Muraina Oyelami in the music and drama departments of University of Ife, Ile-Ife. He was taught monoprint technique by Ru van Rossem’s at his graphic workshop, Ile-Ife, 1974.
Solo Exhibitions: Goethe Institute, Lagos in 1974, 1976 and 1980.
- Adebisi Akanji, Sculptor, Textile Artist
A bricklayer who assisted Susanne Wenger in renovating and re-creating the Oshogbo shrine. He revived the Brazilian- Yoruba tradition of creating sculptured cement lions and elephants but his most notable sculptures are high relief walls, and fences at the Oshogbo shrines.
Solo Exhibition: Mbari Mbayo, Oshogbo, 1962.
- Augustine Chigbata Okoye, Painter, Signpainter
He attended the Oshogbo workshops after first studying with Young Art at Onitsha and studying design and drawing with Gills Art for seven months in 1960. He relocated to Ile-Ife in 1967 sponsored by Ulli Beier.
Solo Exhibitions: Institute of African Studies, University of Ife, Ile-Ife, 1971; Goethe Institute, Lagos, 1972, 1973 and 1974; French Cultural Center, Lagos, 1989.
- Fela Odaranile, Painter
After the workshop he attended Ahmadu Bello University then studied monoprint technique with Professor Irein Wangboje at Ori-Olokun Cultural Centre, Ile-Ife and worked at the Ogun Timehin Workshop, Ile-Ife, with Rufus Ogundele and others.
Solo Exhibitions: National Museum, Lagos, March 1974; Italian Cultural Institute, Lagos, November 1974; Exhibition of Oil Painting and Drawing From the Back by Fela Odaranile; National Museum, Lagos, 1977. Goethe Institute, Lagos, 1981; an Exhibition of Drawings and Paintings from the Back, Italian Cultural Institute, Lagos, May 1986.
- Samuel Ojo, Painter, Textile Artist
He attended the workshops led by Georgina Beier. He made applique wall hangings using cut-out and embroidery techniques, painted wooden screens. He also participated with Twins Seven-Seven in dance, drama and musical performances.
Group Exhibition: Contemporary African Art, Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, USA, 1969.
- Jinadu Oladepo, Sculptor
He was trained as a blacksmith through family apprenticeship. But encouraged by Susanne Wenger and Georgina Beier through the Oshogbo workshops, he created figurines, ash trays, pendants, bangles, rings and buttons from 1965. He also decorated brass surfaces with rolled and twisted forms.
Group Exhibitions: Contemporary African Art, Camden Arts Centre, London, 1969; Contemporary African Art, Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, USA, 1969.
- Ademola Onibonokuta, Mosaicist, Textile Artist
He was an actor with the Duro Ladipo theatre group. He traveled to Germany and Commonwealth Arts Festival, Scotland, with the theatre group in 1964. He became a part-time research assistant at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan in 1965 and traveled to Dakar, Senegal, with the Orisu Theatre School of Drama Company in 1966. In 1983, he was artist-in-residence at the Iwalewa-Haus, Bayreuth, Germany, 1983. He created seed mosaics using a medium called “glasstone sand.”
Solo Exhibitions: Goethe Institute, Lagos, 1973; Paintings, Drawings and Batiks, Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, 1974; Goethe Institute, Lagos, 1974.