With Elevation, Abela Centre unveils Olfactory Experience
When the famed Van Gogh digital art exhibition opened at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on July 27, 2021, there was something special that made this show: Its ‘multi-sensory’ experience. The exhibition quietly introduced an important component — one that awakens the olfactory senses.
The goal was to entertain new audiences and drive back existing attendees with a ‘wow’ factor in a safe, engaging way. There was enchanting imagery and a symphony of colours and scents that created one of the biggest wow factors of the whole experience.
In the last few years, olfactory art has gradually risen in importance, proving that smell can be an artistic medium. Perfume experts are even joining forces with contemporary artists not only to make scents a creative medium but as fragrance brands, making perfumes inspired by fine artworks.
Recently, the Abela Centre for Olfactory Art on Herbert Macaulay Way Yaba, Lagos, opened its door to visitors to experience the vibrant symphony of smell. It was an opportunity for visitors to see how the sense of smell grabs attention and creates deep sensory engagement.
The centre, first-of-its-kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, is dedicated to all things olfactory.
Àbélà by Scents of Africa was born in the home of its founder, Deola ‘Abela’ Paul-Inyang; who inspired by the euphoria of exotic scents, desired to create a sensational, deep and emotive experience with scents.
“Things that have a sense of smell and scent, generally,” said Deola.
Àbélà may sound generic, however, for the people of western Nigerian origin, it means “candle”. The Àbélà name was inspired by the childhood memories of its founder where her grandmother on New Year’s eve would light up white taper candles to usher in a New Year.
“But we are changing the dynamics of this artistry in Africa. Technically, this is the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa, we saw the gap and we are opening up bigger channels how we adopt the use of scents through multisensory experiences in dance, and in movies, the dimensions are so wide and this opening up the opportunities for that and allowing people to see how we can use scents as a communication art.”
Deola, who curated the first show, said, “it is an olfactory sensory experience, we are opening up the house to have more people to understand scents from different dimensions than just its use as body perfume, there is an art to it.”
According to her, “scent is more dynamic as a brand. It is used in perfumery and beyond the spraying on the body. It can be used in a special form as an expression of the arts, theatre and visual arts.”
She said, “olfactory art is taking different inspiration points and expressing them through olfactive measures for creations and expression as well.
“As artists, we tell stories. The Abela brand generally tell stories, and I, as a creator tell stories; stories of our African essence, stories of our human experiences, and interactions in the form of scents and taking personalities and adapting them in olfactive form.”
At its first show in the centre, tagged, The Elevation, all senses were simultaneously engaged, lighting up the brain and paving way for a never-before imagined experience.
“It’s more than just visual, as this exhibition has a designer scent to feast the nose, as well as the eyes. It taps into how scent marketing has become such a part of cultural experiences; it accompanies the art so seamlessly that most people don’t even notice it,” she said.
The curatorial marvel was inspired by the fragrant heavens, with two olfactory experience points: the exploration of the historical relevance of 25 aromatics of origin and the artistic adaptation of the aromatics in conceptual scent creations.
The sensory experience leaves the visitor to marvel at Deola’s interpretation and perspective on the core beliefs of Christendom: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
While inside the centre, Deola and her team of perfume experts were on hand to take on the journey that saw everybody walk the road well taken in the aromatic Biblical footprints.
The first point of call in the show was the aromatic oils. Visitors were able to see, smell and even touch some of these oils mentioned in the bible. They also had the opportunity of sniffing Frankincense, Myrrh, Spikenard, Hyssop, Bdellium, Terenbith and other fragrant oils
From the aromatic oils, the next point was an installation where visitors sniffed different scents from the well-packaged and labelled bottles.
From Crown of Thorns, Passion & The Cross, King of Thorns, and The Awakening to Rebirth, Deola practically curated an installation depicting the various experiences of Jesus Christ at death and his resurrection.
However, the meticulous stage-by-stage sniffing by the visitors, curated and guided by Deola and her crew, was it for visitors at the show. They all were delighted with the refreshing smell of the Rebirth, which one noted, was a common fragrance in hotel rooms.
From that sniffing point, the journey continues to other parts of the exhibition.
Beyond the experiences, the Abela brand offers a rich olfactory library, studio and showroom where scents, perfume candles, aromatherapy candles, potpourri incense oil, luxury home perfume diffuser refill, perfume sachets, perfume room sprays among other Nigerian-made products are on display.