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Oshodi projects traditional lore and myths of Yoruba culture

By Florence Utor
12 November 2017   |   3:52 am
Art is constantly in aid of explicating the traditional values and ways of life of the people and projecting those values to the future. This has been the preoccupation of Oluwaseyi Paul Oshodi, founder and CEO of Oshodi Arts Gallery.

Oshodi showing his works to guests

Art is constantly in aid of explicating the traditional values and ways of life of the people and projecting those values to the future. This has been the preoccupation of Oluwaseyi Paul Oshodi, founder and CEO of Oshodi Arts Gallery. A consummate artist, with footprints in virtually all forms of the art has plans to promote artistic expressions to as wide an audience as possible. Oshodi studied Fine Arts at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and has since become a digital artist, with expertise in 2D/3D animator, video production, curating and arts entrepreneurship.

He founded Oshodi Arts Gallery, Lagos, in 2007, with the aim of engaging his artistic career to deepen his cultural heritage, to discover talents, develop and deploy them and promote professionalism through exhibitions, seminars and workshops, and create wealth for both emerging artists. So far, Oshodi Gallery has impacted over 238,000 persons, both at home and in corporate and government institutions.

In fulfilling his vision of developing potential, both among young people and adults alike, Oshodi noted, “We have demonstrated this through our arts training programme tagged, Heart for Art, which was instituted in 2009 to develop youth, children, women and even retirees and empower them for maximum productivity. We also open our gallery to schools at different levels for research works and execution. Similarly, we have partnered with government agencies at local, state and federal levels to highlight our corporate social responsibility in the interest of the general public. Religious and cultural organisation have not been left behind, as we promote and preach religious tolerance through technical collaborations and visual expression.”

Born in Okitipupa, Ondo State, Oshodi obtained a Masters’ degree at Lagos State University (LASU). He has worked as a multimedia expert and a studio artist, as well as an art, digital animator and video effects artist before becoming a fulltime studio artist.

Oshodi also spoke glowingly on his influences and inspiration, saying, “At the beginning, three major influences characterised my works and career. The first was my basic academic training at Ife. The second was my final research project in the Ife contents, which was the traditional African mask, while the society, particularly Yoruba society, was the third.”

Oshodi’s views on how culture enhances the people’s heritage is informed by the life patterns of the people, that range from the local foodstuff to the mode of dressing, dancing, wood crafts, such as carved house posts and decorated doors. He gave the example of his home state, Ondo, which he said, “Speaks volumes. In the variety and quality of its traditional sculptures and cultural ceremonies, Ondo State is rich and endowed. The people are lovers of arts, music and literature. The arts and crafts of the state are dependent on the products of its luxuriant vegetation for the raw materials such as wood, bamboo, calabash carvings and more.

“The ivory carving, bronze and brass work and wood carving from Owo are basically Yoruba, with sculptures excavated at Egberin Street in the town in 1971. It showed the naturalistic art of classical life. The carved house posts and decorated doors from Owo and Idanre are among the best known internationally.”

He continued, “Small-scale museums of antiquities are to be found in parts of the state, mostly in the palaces of traditional rulers, who are the custodians of the people’s rich culture and ancient traditions. The palace of Deji of Akure is, for instance, a national monument, where relics of Yoruba’s past can be found.”

Coming from a state with a passion for religion and how the nuances are navigated, especially if it conflicts with his passion for culture and artistic practice, Oshodi said, “Present day Ondo State people are mostly Christians, while a sizable number of Muslims can be found in Ikare, and other parts of the state. There are also traditional worshipers, who are the custodians and devotees of the various deities of Yoruba religion, chief of which are Ogun (god of iron), Ifa oracle, Sango (god thunder), Esu, Osanyin, Olofin, Egungun and Orisa-nla (supreme God).

“The Yoruba of Ondo State have strong belief in the supreme God, whom they call Olodumare. They believe he is superior to other deities and cannot be worshiped directly, hence they worship Him through other lesser gods. This has gradually given way to Christianity and the people today believe that Jehovah or El Shadai, the God of the Christians, is the same as the Olodumare.”