Here I am thinking about the possibilities that being in this MBA program present, who I’ll meet to guide me in the right direction, as well as what secrets I’ll uncover about myself. Like Susanne, I’ll be open to new discoveries in whatever dimensions they express themselves.
I visited the Orisun Art Gallery in Abuja about two months ago and was enthralled by the artwork and story of one woman in particular, Susanne Wenger, a high priestess of Orisha (Spiritual beings)
How did a well-known Austrian-born artist become one of Nigeria’s most loved female artists?
Susanne Wenger arrived in Nigeria in December 1950, with her husband Beier Ulli, a phonetician who had recently started working at the University College Ibadan. Susanne became ill with Tuberculosis when the couple relocated to Ede. She was bedridden for nine months before being treated with indigenous medication.
Susanne was drawn to the faith shortly after meeting Ajagemo, one of the few remaining Obatala priests of the Ifa religion, who eventually inducted her into the cult. Susanne saw her illness as an initiation ailment, a form of shamanic preparation for her religious initiation.
Wenger eventually divorced Beier (I’m not exactly clear why), and later married local drummer Lasisi Alarape. By this time she had established herself as an active player in the resurrection of the Orisha cult. She left Ede and travelled to Ilobu. She eventually settled in Osogbo in 1961, when she became more interested in the worship of the Ogun goddess. Wenger devoted her time and creative efforts to the beautifying of the Osun-Osogbo grove, becoming immersed in the traditional ceremonies and devotion of the Osun god.
She eventually rebuilt many of the religious sculptures within sacred locations while living in the town and was also commissioned by the Osogbo District Council to renovate many of the local shrines, including the shrine devoted to the river goddess, Oshun. Wenger was later inducted into the cults of Obatala (the sky father), Soponna (the deity of smallpox), and Ogboni (the god of the earth), and was eventually conferred with the title ‘Adunni Olorisha’ (the adored of the deities).
Adunni Olorisha lived in a magnificent home, a two-story mud mansion encrusted with bougainvillea blossoms located in Ibosun road, Oke Baale, Osogbo.
Historically, all Yoruba cities had holy groves (groups of trees close together) where the most significant rites and sacrifices are performed. The Osun grove and main shrine by the Osun-osogbo River were collapsing, and the community couldn’t raise enough money to pay for the labor to repair it. Susanne hired two bricklayers, Oyewale and Lani, to repair the shrine and re-erect the wall that shielded the forest’s inner sanctuary from casual visitors. Lani and Oyewale gradually brought the space to life by adding relief figures on the wall. Susanne also rebuilt the shrine at Idi Baba, a location on Ibokun Road where the Osun celebration finishes in a final sacrifice.
Susanne was profoundly struck by the holiness of the Sacred Groves and became a strong champion for its preservation. She worked with local artists to make sculptures that are physical attributes to several Yoruba deities, erecting more spectacular shrines, and filling the forest of the Sacred Groves with works of art, spawning a new art movement known as “New Sacred Art.” Susanne saw art as “an expression of the sacred” rather than an economic venture.
The majority of the funds for the sculptures came from the sale of her artwork. Susanne held several notable international exhibits from the mid-1980’s till 2004. Her sketches, paintings, and batiks from her years in Nigeria and early days in Austria are conserved at a purpose-built gallery in Krems, Austria, with many more in various art galleries across Nigeria.
Things happen for a reason; Susanne came to Nigeria and realized her true self and destiny; she was open to new experiences and did not allow prejudices impede her from learning and adopting diverse forms of worship and the essence of spirituality. So, here I am thinking about the possibilities that being in this MBA program present, who I’ll meet to guide me in the right direction, as well as what secrets I’ll uncover about myself. Like Susanne, I’ll be open to new discoveries in whatever dimensions they express themselves.
4 Replies to “The Indomitability of Adunni Olorisha”
“When I call someone and they don’t call back, I automatically assume that they fainted from excitement…”
Now, where is that ‘laughing’ emoji when you need it?
I also like the open mindset you bring to the program. Many carry the idea of pre-planning their moves as a sacred ethos, but I think it takes great optimism to walk into an environment looking for new experiences. Who knows what you will discover. I hope you become pleasantly surprised at the end of this journey!
Great one, No-ra-Chass.
I’m keeping an open mind, thank you very much, the self proclaimed Afang bender!
I read the last line in your voice, lol. 😂😂😂😂😂
Many thanks, Gene. 🙂