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Solanke, first female SAN, makes living legends’ portraiture

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One of the documenting artists, with Chief (Mrs.) Folake Solanke in the background at the 7th edition of Living Legends

A not-for-profit visual documenting initiative, Living Legend, has announced Chief Folake Solanke (SAN), as its 7th icon. Solanke is the first female lawyer conferred with the honour of Senior Advocate of Nigeria for her legal contribution to the socio-economic and political sphere in Nigeria. Organisers of Living Legend, Olu Ajayi Studio stated that on Thursday, August 31, 2017 at Bodija area, Ibadan, Oyo State, Solanke, attired in silk regalia, sat in a comfortable posture before five artists.

Taiwo Fadare, Olusegun Adejumo, Akinola Ebenezer, Toromade Tosin and Olu Ajayi were the five artists, who expressed their artistic interpretation of her sitting profile from different perspectives. Curator and Business Manager of Living Legend project, Eki Eboigbe, said it was an honour to receive Solanke’s acceptance to sit for the seventh edition.

In 2008, the project started with documenting personalities, who are making great impact and creating legendary footprints that will make for scholarly and artistic references at all time. The format employs the medium of drawing, painting, sketching and sculpting to create and immortalise personalities that fit into ‘Legend’ definition of the organisers. It is the hope of organisers that the process of highlighting the deeds and accomplishments of Nigerian, African, and international icons would ignite the spirit of emulation and re-awake national consciousness, history and patriotism among citizens.

“It will locate the intercession and intervention of the arts in national development,” she said.

So far, the project has documented the under listed personalities – Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Yusuf Grillo, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya and the late Oba of Benin (Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa), Prof. JP Clark and General Yakubu Gowon.

During the seventh edition, Solanke said it was a unique experience for her to be part of the project. She prayed that good fortunes would attend the Living Legend innovation.

“I’m very elated to be included on the same pedestal to the previous documented legends, the likes of Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Yusuf Grillo, Dr. Bruce Onobrakpeya and the Oba of Benin, Prof. JP Clark and General Yakubu Gowon.”

She then posed a personal question to the initiator, asking how the project was being funded? Ajayi said funding has been a sore point in the unique project, as corporate Nigeria is yet to see its viability, saying it was only interested in short-term projects that yield huge profits. Ajayi explained that though the project received funding from NNPC for the Yakubu Gowon edition, all other editions have been funded by the studio.

Solanke was born in Abeokuta on Tuesday, March 29, 1932 to the illustrious family of Chief Jacob Sogboyega Odulate, also known as Alabukun of Ikorodu, who made his name and fame in Abeokuta. He was a pharmacist and the proprietor and founder of Alabukun Patent Medicine Stores, Sapon, Abeokuta. Her father was the inventor and manufacturer of Alabukun powder and many other medical products. His photograph is depicted on the popular Alabukun powder sachet. Her mother, Sekumade Odulate died young when she was only two years old.

Solanke attended kindergarten and primary at Ago-Oko School and Imo Girls’ School respectively. In 1944, she sat for the entrance examination into Methodist Girls’ High School, Lagos. Having passed with a spectacular result, she was placed in Form II instead of Form I. She attended Methodist Girls’ High School from 1945 to 1949, where she obtained Grade I in the Senior Cambridge School Certificate Examination and was a School Prefect and Games Captain.

Solanke worked for a few months in a ministry in Lagos and found the clerical work unbearably boring; she was relieved when she left the ministry. She then left for the United Kingdom in January and entered King’s College, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, then in the University of Durham, now University of Newcastel-upon-Tyne, from 1951 to 1955, where she obtained B.A. degree and Diploma in Education, teaching Latin and Mathematics, as a resident teacher in two fee-paying public schools:

i) Pipers Corner School, Great Kingshill, High Wycombe, Bucks, and ii) St. Monica’s School, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.

She also taught the same subjects at Yejide Girls’ Grammar School (1958-1960), when she returned to Nigeria. She got married to the love of her life, Dr. Toriola Feisetan Solanke in London in 1956, who later became a professor Emeritus of Surgery, before he passed away in 2001. In 1960, they returned to England, where she worked as a Students’ Officer, No 7 at the Nigerian High Commission, London (1960 – 62); she also read law at Gray’s Inn, where she passed all the Bar examination in 22 months and was called to the English Bar ‘in-absentia” in May 1963 in London. She also enrolled as a lawyer in the Supreme Court, Lagos, Nigeria, the same month and year.

In 1981 she was elevated by the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) – the equivalent of Queen’s Counsel (QC) in England, the first female lawyer to be so elevated. She has been practicing advocacy for over 52 years and not tired!

In 1981, she joined the prestigious Zonta International – a global organisation of executives in business and the professions, working for the advancement of women. The new focus is “Empowering Women through Service and Advocacy. Zonta has clubs in about 70 countries around the world. Solanke is a member of Zonta Club, Ibadan I. She rose, by elections, through the ranks.

In 1992 in Hong Kong, by divine grace, she achieved what was thought to be impossible by being elected the first non-Caucasian (non-white) Zonta International President for 1994-1996. Her biennial theme was: “Zonta in Action: Women’s Health, Human Rights and World Harmony” (‘Triple H’ concept). Her biennial performance has been positively acknowledged by all and she is welcomed at Zonta Conventions all over the world with much respect and affection.



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