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Documenting Yoruba Heritage in Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s Art

By Tajudeen Sowole
23 December 2018   |   3:56 am
Deep into cultural values of Yoruba, artist Airat Olaide Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s works of paintings, being presented alongside archival photographs, expand documentation of Yoruba people’s fading heritage. Though lacking in contemporary presentation of visual content, Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s solo art exhibition titled Yoruba Arts, Tradition and Cultural Heritage currently showing at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, enriches and expands narratives…

Airat Olaide Abanikonda-Adeyeye paintings

Deep into cultural values of Yoruba, artist Airat Olaide Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s works of paintings, being presented alongside archival photographs, expand documentation of Yoruba people’s fading heritage.

Though lacking in contemporary presentation of visual content, Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s solo art exhibition titled Yoruba Arts, Tradition and Cultural Heritage currently showing at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, enriches and expands narratives of native values.

Trained at Goldsmiths, University of London, U.K., Abanikonda-Adeyeye, 75, had 33-year career in industrial design and printing before becoming a full time studio artist.

In visual content of paintings and cut out from archival photographs, Abanikonda-Adeyeye’s art revisits the connection between royal Yoruba values and the people’s traditional art and heritage.

Mounted on simple black frames, the paintings depict Yoruba traditional rituals, sites and festivals or iconic names in the people’s heritage.

Presented in typical old fashion, which perhaps appropriates the traditional visual context of the exhibition, among the works is the artist’s painterly representation of a festival in honour of the monarch, Obalufon Alaiyemore, described by the artist as “the son of the 5th Ooni (4th-5th century).

Other works in combined photographs of artefacts, sites, festival and rituals bring to the space documentation of old and subsisting yearly festivals.

Among such works are ‘Pictorial History of Yoruba Race’, ‘Creation of Human: Obatala’, ‘Olojo Festival (Ojo ti olojo da ojo), a tribute to the current Ooni, Oba Ogunwusi, among others.

In pictoriaI are ‘Aje Ogunluso Festival Procession’, ‘Aje Festival in Procession with Yoruba Actors,’ ‘Osun Osogbo Festival,’ ‘Odun Ifa Festival’, ‘Great Lisabi Sports and Entertainment’, ‘Ojude Oba Festival (The Regberegbes), ‘Alagemo in Procession’, ‘Egungun Festival’, ‘Eyo Adamu Orisa’ and ‘Oke’Badan Festival’.

An artist whose brush strokes populate her canvas with crowds of figures, Abanikonda-Adeyeye is quite a distance away from the mainstream art circuit’ presentation of visual content.

However, whatever the presentations of some of the festival pictures lack in graphical details in the cluster of images, her paintings make up for that in quite a number works in crowded figures.

Ever wonder what the Yoruba progenitor, Oduduwa looked like? Abanikonda-Adeyeye has an answer in her painting titled ‘Oduduwa’, which depicts a figure with feminine physique covered by white robe of no specific design.

The guest of honour for the exhibition’s opening, Prince Yemisi Shyllon echoed the value of traditional settings in leadership, saying, “Our obas are not thieves and our culture not fetish”.

Shyllon, a well-known patron of art and culture was more emphatic in Yoruba language, adding, “E ye pe asa wa ni ebo (our culture is not fetish).

Shyllon also clarified that “our culture is not religion; Ifa is not a religion; it is philosophy”. The religious aspect, he explained, “is only a part of our culture.”

For the exhibiting artist whose show marks her 75th birthday, Shyllon argued that “this is the way to celebrate birthday,” he told the artist, adding, “You are a good representation of Yoruba race.”

The exhibition, Abanikonda-Adeyeye said, is strictly a celebration of her collection in Yoruba arts and heritage. But exactly what would she do with the works, particularly her paintings? “They are not for sale, but they remain in my collection”, she said and hoped that some of the paintings might be among the collection for the new Shyllon Museum being built at Pan-Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos.

Abanikonda-Adeyeye is the first Nigerian woman artist to design postage stamps. Her 33-year career includes working with Nigerian Security Printing and Minting, Lagos, De La Rue, Basingstoke, among others.

She deserves to be revered. She was a finisher at Times Press, Apapa, a designer and window display lady, at Leventis Stores, Marina, Trade and Industry as a typist and royal borough of Kessington and Chelsea, London, Nigerian Security Printing and Minting, Lagos through De La Rue and company, Basingstoke, where she rose to the post of Assistant General Manager, Security Document and retired as Assistant General Manager in the same organisation.

She had her first art exhibition titled Miss Nigeria in1975 at Royal Gallery, Parliament Square, London.