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Nigerian Field Society

 
 
Trip to: Osogbo

Date: 19-20 July 2008

 

Trip leader: Paulette van Trier


On  Saturday  19  June 2008,  over a  dozen NFS  members waited eagerly  at EKO hotel for the departure to Osogbo.
Luckily  the  third  mainland  bridge  maintenance  work  was  postponed  to August  but  we  still  spent  a  little  over  four  hours  to arrive  at  Osogbo.  Our first stop was at Nike’s Guest House, where we checked into our respective rooms and had our lunch break after the long journey. Whilst  the  Guest  House  accommodation  is quite  basic,  it  has  a  beautiful garden where you can enjoy your breakfast under the sun and enjoy a nice stroll, a luxury that denies us in busy cosmopolitan Lagos.

 


Osogbo  is  the  capital  city  of  Osun  State  and  is  famous  in  arts  and sculptures.  Situated  on  the  outskirts  of  Osogbo  town  lies  the  infamous Sacred Groves  of  Osogbo,  a  vast  area  of  unspoilt  nature  serving  as  a sanctuary  for  the Orisha  - the  Yoruba  gods  in the  traditional concept. The groves in Osogbo are the home of Oshun - the goddess of "the waters of life as well as the abode of the goddess of fertility Oshun, one of the pantheons of Yoruba gods.



 
We  joined a 2-hour  guided  walk  in  the  groves that gave  us  an  interesting perspective into the culture and religion of Yoruba people. The landscape of the  grove  and  its  meandering  river is  dotted  with  sanctuaries and  shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other deities.

 

We  were  also  very  surprised  to  find  many  beautiful,  enigmatic  and enormous  sculptures  that  are well  preserved  in  the groves.  It  is here that we were introduced to the amazing conservation efforts of Suzanne Wenger and her iconic work of art that has integrated with nature, now protecting it. These sculptures, some to  the  height  of a  four-storey building represented Suzanne’s  effort  to  immortalize  and  celebrate  the  Gods  of  Orisha.  We completed our tour at Suzanne’s first home in the Sacred Groves.

Our  next  stop  was  at  Suzanne’s  existing  abode,  situated  in  the  town  of Osogbo itself. It is a very artistic and gorgeous place. The house is distinctly different from other buildings in the vicinity. The fence, door, staircase, and pillars  are  all  intricately  carved  with  sculptures  that  set  it  apart  from  the mundane  brick  and  clay  buildings  of  its  neighbours.  Downstairs  we  saw many  jovial children  apparently  being  tutored  in the  subject  of arts in  the In her  room upstairs, metal-works, sculptures of  wood and of stone, house too. and  paintings  clustered  in  the  middle  calling  out  for  attention  in  an  otherwise dimly lit room.


 
 To  many  in  Osogbo,  Suzanne  is  affectionately  called  “Mama”.  She  is bestowed  the  title of Adunni (adored one) for dedicating almost all her life (since  1950s) to  preserving  the  shrine  and  in  the  process  creating  a national  landmark  in  Nigeria  –  Sacred  Groves  of  Osogbo,  now  a  UNESCO World  Heritage  site.  At  93,  she  still  looks  healthy  in  her  Adire  outfit  and kindly entertained our  many questions.  Her  simple  answer to  the question about “which piece of sculpture in the groves is her favourite” struck me on how closely her life is intertwined with the rites and culture of Orisha – she replied: “How do you choose between the Gods?”

On the way back, we stopped at Nike Art Gallery. A 2-storey building inside which displays the work of Nike and her students. Nike was still stuck in the traffic in Ibadan so our tour of the workshop had to wait till the next day.

Back at the Nike Guest House we had an hour break before dinner. Our day did not end with drinks and food. Instead, we were entertained with cultural dance troupe  performance  after  dinner.  We  were  certainly amazed  at  how agile  and  acrobatic  the  dancers  were.  We  were  introduced  to  “Pasting”  an act  of  appreciation  for  the  performers  during  the  dance  performance  by pasting  money  onto  their  heads.  It  was  fun!  Highlight  was  when  we  were invited to join in the dance. Some of our NFS members made an admirable attempt  to  mimic  the  rear-moving  act  of  some  dancers.  Hilarious  but nonetheless was well rewarded with pasting too!
 

The  next  day  started off  with  a  wonderful English breakfast  at the garden and  by 9am  we were  whisked  off  to Nike  Centre  for  Art  and  Culture. This place  was  opened  in  1983  by  Nike  in  order  to  create  jobs  for  young Nigerians  and  encourage  Nigerian  women  in  the  subject  of  arts.  Nike explained that the Centre sometimes even feed and accommodate industrial trainee students free of charge, funded by the profits from the sale of items at the shop.
Here  we  saw  contemporary  Osogbo  arts  in  painting,  designs,  batik,  and metal  and  wood  sculptures.  Over  at  the  workshop  we  were  introduced  to the  traditional cloth making  of  Batik and Tie &  Dye.  It  is  commonly known as  Adire - indigo dyed  cloth produced by Yoruba women  using a  variety of resist dye techniques.
 


 
Our  next  stop  was the palace of Oba  Adeen, Oludo  of Ido-Osun to witness the  Chieftaincy  ceremony  of  High  Chief  Paulette  Van  Trier.  Chief  Paulette was bestowed the  highest title of Iyolade  for her  great contributions to the development  of  Osun.  The  ceremony  started  with  a  warm welcome  by  His Highness  Oba  Adeen  that  reaffirms  Osogbo  as  a  home  to  all  of  us  from different parts of the world. The ceremony was short and  full of boisterous music  provided  by  the  skilled  drums  men.  Later  Oba  Adeen  granted  the Nigerian Field Society a private audience and even offered us an acre of free land  each  if  we  wish  to  build  a  home  in  Osogbo!  I  am  not  so  sure  about taking  up his offer  just  now  but  perhaps will be kicking myself in a decade for not doing so when Osogbo is well developed!

The  journey  was  quickly  coming  to  an  end  by  1pm.  We  departed  Osogbo after  a  quick  lunch  out  at  the  garden  again  at  N ike  Guest  House  and  got
back to Lagos after a 3-hour bus journey without much traffic jam. It was a tiring journey but I dare say has been one of the best weekend getaways in Nigeria  by far made all  the  better  by  our wonderful Chief Paulette. Verdict on Osogbo - Highly recommended!
 

2017  Nigerian Field Society