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Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess - Culture - Nairaland

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Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Abiyamo: 3:12pm On May 15, 2013


The first time I heard about her, I was confused. I cannot really recollect clearly now but I think it was in one of our many editions of either an Alaroye or Akede Agbaye. I just didn’t get it and I thought it was one huge joke. I kept asking myself: why will an oyinbo (white) woman leave her Obodo Oyibo (Jand na..lol!) and come to a frightening tropical rainforest in southwestern Nigeria and stay there for life, transforming herself into an Osun High priestess, privy to some of the deepest occultic (awo) rituals, metaphysical secrets and orphic traditions of one of the most revered cultures in African civilization?

READ FULL DETAILS AND SEE MORE PICTURES HERE>>>http://abiyamo.com/susanne-wenger-nigerias-mystical-white-high-priestess/

Even as I am writing this, Suzanne Wenger (better known as Adunni Olorisha) leaves me dazed and dazzled. I asked my Mum about the baffling story I just read and drew her attention to Wenger’s scary eyes. My Mum, a repertoire of knowledge, tried her best to explain Suzanne Wenger’s story, but she succeeded in only leaving me even more confounded and astounded. I hope I won’t do the same to you…lol! Here is the story of Adunni Olorisha, Nigeria’s mystical white high priestess. An Austrian painter who decided to serve and devote her life to an African god.

Before we proceed further, please note that the name ‘Adunni’ is the oriki (traditional name) that the Yorubas have given her, and it means ‘Happy or glad to have you’. It can also be translated to mean ‘Someone who is cherished or treasured‘. On the other hand, Olorisha simply means someone who has deep relationships with the orishas, the deities of Yorubaland. Both names can be translated to mean ‘the loved one who worships or serves the deity.’ or “the cherished one who is deeply committed to the gods.” According to foremost Ifa priest, Chief Yemi Elebuibon, she was given the name Iwinfunmi Adunni Olorisha by the late Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Samuel Adeleye Adenle I (reigned from 1944-1975). Okay, let’s fire on!

BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS IN EUROPE
Born in the middle of the First World War (4th July, 1915) in Graz, southern Austria to Christian Swiss-Austrian parents, she had always been strongly attracted to nature. Even as a child, she spent a great deal of time in the mountains and forests (she was particularly fond of trees) around the small town. She once suffered a serious fall inside a lift shaft in 1945 when the Second World War was about to end.

Thereafter, she went to Italy, touring Sicily and Rome in 1948. Thereafter, she proceeded to Zurich in Switzerland and finally to Paris where she fell in love with the high intellectual society and gladly started to really express herself with her paintbrush. Risking her life during the Second World War, she supported the masses and opposed the Nazis who had occupied her country of Austria and pounded her nation with bombs. She even went as far as hiding Jewish friends and others branded as enemies by the Nazis.

For four harrowing years and under constant Nazi threats, she was at the Academy of Art in Vienna. The Nazi regime banned her works, describing her art as ‘degenerate’ and she was forbidden to paint (what is it with dictators and expression of creative thinking gan sef?). Then, she turned to reading books about Oriental religions and faiths in other places of the world. Today, the works of art she made during those dark periods have been acclaimed as ‘the first surreal works of art by an Austrian painter.’ She started out as an artist at the College for Arts and Crafts in Graz, Austria.

It was there she learnt and practiced with pencil, ink and crayon drawing, alongside ceramics and clay sculptures. She was one of the artists who struggled against Hitler and his cohorts (never mind the fact that he himself was born in Austria…lol!) In 2001, she was specially honoured in Graz, Austria for her efforts during the war days with exhibitions titled Moderne in dunkler Zeit (Modern art in dark times).


COMING TO AFRICA AND DEVOTING HER LIFE TO THE DEITIES
In 1949, she came down to Africa with her then-husband, Ulli Beier. In 1950, they moved to Ede, now in Osun State to have a change from the ‘unnatural’ compound of the university. They wanted a more natural surrounding. While he continued as a lecturer at the University of Ibadan, she proceeded as an artist. It was at Ede that she met the powerful Ajagemo, one of the very last priests of Obatala worship, an ancient orisha-based religion which had almost gone extinct. Then she became friends with him and took great interest in all the rituals and activities even though she understood not even a single word of Yoruba at that time. She said to a French documentary maker in 2005:“He took me by the hand and led me into the spirit world.. “I did not speak Yoruba and he did not speak English. Our only intercourse was the language of the trees.’


They later moved to Osogbo but over time, she and Beier would separate. While he left for Europe, she remained in Osogbo and while Beier was training a group of local artists (he also founded the Mbari Mbayo Cultural Movement which has been described as the precursor of modern Nigerian art and literature), Susanne got even deeper in her training as a priestess of an ancient religion. The real turning point came in 1950 when she was seriously ill with tuberculosis. As at that time, Nigeria was under British colonialism and there was no doctor on ground to help her from the disease that was slowly killing her from the inside. After various attempts to cure her tuberculosis, they gave up on her and expected her to die until help came from an unlikely source: from the Yorubas.

She was given herbal mixtures provided by Yoruba medicinemen and in no time, she was well. She recovered and decided to ‘give her life’ to the Yoruba orishas who saved her from the gripping jaws of death. And until she died, she never looked back. The only time she visited her country was for short visits, her real home was in the heart of southwestern Nigeria, surrounded by warm and hospitable Yorubas.

SUSANNE THE WRITER, ARTIST AND ENVIRONMENTALIST
While in Yorubaland, she also displayed her artistic skills, making countless murals and a series of sculptures and carvings. She took her time to understand the deepest mysteries of Yoruba traditional beliefs and tried to interpret them through art (see pictures below). From the mid-80s, her works were exhibited in Europe with the premiere in 1985 when she turned 70. That same year, she took her art to Vienna, Austria for the first time in 30 years. As an artist, she distinguished herself, making use of various media, such as oil painting on plywood panels from old tea chests.

It is important to mention that she was one of the most influential Austrian artists, with some of those inspired by her being an entire generation of Vienne artists like Bertoni, Brauer, Lehmden and Fuchs. Some of the themes of her artworks spanned various areas: global literature, Yoruba mythology, Christianity, history of man, nature and the rest. She described her artistic representations like cloth paintings (see picture below) of Yoruba mythologies as representing ‘a sort of metaphysical snapshot.’ An ingenious artist, she later created a method which fused wax batik, textile painting and indigo dye. With this style, she was able to make paintings of immense proportions, some measuring up to 7 by 3.5 metres.

In the period between 1952 and 1970, she made illustrations for and designed Yoruba books. She also wrote children books in Yoruba and English and was a regular contributor to the popular Black Orpheus founded by her then-husband, Ulli Beier. In addition to this, she also ensured that the pristine rainforest was preserved. She had to cross paths with loggers and farmers who wanted to cut down the trees for other uses and destroy the environment in the process. Over her over fifty years of living among the Yorubas, she also teamed up with the locals to restore numerous shrines, many of which were already falling into disuse and lack of repairs before she came.


LOVE, ROMANCE AND MARRIAGE
Her first husband was the world-renowned Ulli Beier, a German researcher and linguist whom she met in Paris while he was working with handicapped children in 1949. At that time, Beier had just accepted a post at the University of Ibadan to teach Phonetics. The pair got married using two curtain rings for wedding rings. While doing the wedding at a London registry office and presented the curtain rings, the registrar looked at them and said: ‘A wedding is not a silly joke.’ And they responded: ‘How do you know?’.

After the marriage (which was quickly done so she could follow him), they set off to Nigeria. No, wait. They did not fly to Nigeria. They actually drove all the way across North Africa, past the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, through the stifling heat and chilly cold of the Sahara Desert. Finally, they reached in early 1950.

After separating with Beier, she would later fall in love with a local drummer, the late Chief Ayansola Oniru Alarape and they got married in 1959. They would later separate when he was maltreating her and remained single for the rest of her life, married only to the deities. She says of the experience in the book, Susanne Wenger: Artist and Priestess by Paola Caboara Luzatto:

She adopted over 12 Yoruba kids and one of them is the well-known Yinka Davies-Okundaye, who is now one of the most renowned contemporary painters in Nigeria.She adopted Nike at the age of six when she became an orphan. Susanne Wenger then formed a cooperative society for the benefit of the community and to raise her many kids.

With time, she became an inspiration for an entire generation of artists and the focal point of the Osun Grove, especially when people congregate there every August for the annual Osun Osogbo festival.

RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION
It is imperative to clarify that Susanne Wenger (Adunni Olorisha) was a very religious and spiritual person. But talking of religion, she did not follow any specific doctrine or text. Rather, she accepted and tolerated the concept of a ‘different, mystical dimension that is inherent in all that exists.’ She said: ‘creative thinking and art are not measurable since they are testimony of the truth, and this truth, the only truth has many faces. Who can count the faces of truth? All religions are ultimately ”the religion of mankind”. Art is ritual.’ Based on that, I will regard her as a pantheist.

CRITICISM
As expected, Adunni Olorisha became the focus of criticism, with her most vociferous critics being some Christians and Muslims who felt all she was doing was reviving paganism, heathen faiths and idol worship. Well, she disagreed with her opponents and never wasted time in firing back her own salvos.She always rejected their arguments by insisting that there was a lot in common with all the religions, including Islam and Christianity, the two principal religions in Nigeria. She said: ‘Orisha (spirit or deity) is merely a name which represents the supernatural forces which are basic expressions of life. It does not matter what you call it. It is a sacred force that represents the experience of life that informs human beingness. As with all religions, there is no true way to explain it along rational lines without leeching it of its meaning and intensely personal quality. You are a part of it and it is a part of you. You may, as so many have done, push it aside, but it remains in you, in all of us.” ‘ Until she died, she tried her best to make people understand this.





HER LAST DAYS
Her last day on earth was a Monday. On the 12th of January, 2009, she died at the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Hospital in Osogbo. On her deathbed, she was surrounded by some of the 15 children she adopted and asked them: ‘What day of the week is it.? What time of the day is it.?’ When they answered her, she said: ‘It is time to go. It is good. It is ok.’ And those were to be her very last words. By her side was her first adopted son, Chief Sangodare Gbadegesin Ajala and Chief Doyin Faniyi, an adopted daughter. After her demise, one of her fellow olorishas and artists, Chief Muraina Oyelami, released a statement saying: ‘Our beloved colleague, mentor and Adunni Olorisha, responded to the call of Olodumare (God) some hours ago’. One of her followers said: “She is not dead. She lives through her works. She only has become an Orisha. She only slept, she didn’t die.” Before her death, she left standing instructions to be buried the same day she died without being kept in the mortuary or any elaborate fanfare. According to her adopted daughter, no part of her body was removed and the burial rites were performed in one of the sacred shrines in the forest grove that night by worshippers of Oro and Osun.

Her adopted daughter would later add: ‘She doesn’t want any tomb to be erected for her. She doesn’t want anyone to know where she is buried (so that it will not be turned into a tourist site). She just wants to be buried without fanfare. But we are going on with all rites which will be in segments. We are starting with a seven-day ritual and this will be followed by a 16-day ritual and another 21-day ritual.’

24 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by 419forlife: 3:27pm On May 15, 2013

6 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Tolexander: 3:41pm On May 15, 2013
Aduni olorisa!

I heard she aided a white when the white wanted to snap the picture of yeye osun at the shrine and the white was knocked into a stone?

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by PAPAAFRICA: 5:34pm On May 15, 2013
eww
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by dominique(f): 10:40am On May 20, 2013
Almost a centinarian and still going strong.
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by BoboYekini(m): 12:39pm On May 20, 2013
dominique: Almost a centinarian and still going strong.
what are you saying? She's dead.

3 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Nobody: 2:22pm On May 22, 2013
BoboYekini: what are you saying? She's dead.

cheesy grin

2 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by AtheistD(m): 2:22pm On May 22, 2013
She looks 20 years older than her husband shocked
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by bebe2(f): 2:22pm On May 22, 2013
WHO BE DIS? better still
WETIN BE DIS

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Nobody: 2:24pm On May 22, 2013
Interesting.
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by PAGAN9JA(m): 2:25pm On May 22, 2013
Why is this in the CUlture section? It should be in the Religious Section! angry

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by PAGAN9JA(m): 2:26pm On May 22, 2013
when oyinbos are bowing to African concepts of GODS, Higher Powers and SPirituality, Our Nigerian peoples are running towards man-worship of oyinbos and israelis. FOR SHAME! angry

13 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by PAGAN9JA(m): 2:26pm On May 22, 2013
Its good we have some sensible peoples in this country, like Wole Soyinka, late Chinua Achebe, etc.

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by ibrash600: 2:27pm On May 22, 2013
*sighs*... Wen i see dis thread, i tink say @op go say she be Arsene Wenger's wife ARSENAL MANAGER... lmao grin grin
Thank u iyaniwura for the info... More more blessing...

6 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Nobody: 2:28pm On May 22, 2013
Abiyamọ:

LOVE, ROMANCE AND MARRIAGE
Her first husband was the world-renowned Ulli Beier, a German researcher and linguist whom she met in Paris while he was working with handicapped children in 1949. At that time, Beier had just accepted a post at the University of Ibadan to teach Phonetics. The pair got married using two curtain rings for wedding rings. While doing the wedding at a London registry office and presented the curtain rings, the registrar looked at them and said: ‘A wedding is not a silly joke.’ And they responded: ‘How do you know?’.

After the marriage (which was quickly done so she could follow him), they set off to Nigeria. No, wait. They did not fly to Nigeria. They actually drove all the way across North Africa, past the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, through the stifling heat and chilly cold of the Sahara Desert. Finally, they reached in early 1950.

After separating with Beier, she would later fall in love with a local drummer, the late Chief Ayansola Oniru Alarape and they got married in 1959. They would later separate when he was maltreating her and remained single for the rest of her life, married only to the deities. She says of the experience in the book, Susanne Wenger: Artist and Priestess by Paola Caboara Luzatto:

She adopted over 12 Yoruba kids and one of them is the well-known Yinka Davies-Okundaye, who is now one of the most renowned contemporary painters in Nigeria.She adopted Nike at the age of six when she became an orphan. Susanne Wenger then formed a cooperative society for the benefit of the community and to raise her many kids.


This woman try o.

Allow driving to Nigeria though. tongue
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by wellmax(m): 2:29pm On May 22, 2013
Priestess Suzanne Wenger abeg which year Arsene Wenger go win trophy, please prophesy.

8 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Nobody: 2:30pm On May 22, 2013
BoboYekini: what are you saying? She's dead.
it means she 's almost 100
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by PAGAN9JA(m): 2:30pm On May 22, 2013
1 of her adopted daughter:

2 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Abiyamo: 2:30pm On May 22, 2013
Hahahah...lol! A lot of people said that too....lol!
ibrash600: *sighs*... Wen i see dis thread, i tink say @op go say she be [b] Arsene Wenger's[\b] wife ARSEANL MANAGER... lmao grin grin
Thank u iyaniwura for the info... More more blessing...
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Nobody: 2:32pm On May 22, 2013
PAGAN 9JA:
when oyinbos are bowing to African concepts of GODS, Higher Powers and SPirituality, Our Nigerian peoples are running towards man-worship of oyinbos and israelis. FOR SHAME! angry
black dnt appreciate what they have now. that's why blacks will always be sub-human

3 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by wonlasewonimi: 2:33pm On May 22, 2013
Arsene Wengers foster mother.

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by ibrash600: 2:35pm On May 22, 2013
wellmax: Priestess Suzanne Wenger abeg which year Arsene Wenger go win trophy, please prophesy.

Soonest, arsene priestest suzanne wenger will do d magic next season... *winks*
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Orikinla(m): 2:36pm On May 22, 2013
I met her only once. And her deep blue eyes were unforgettable.

See my references on her on the following http://www.nairaland.com/70618/twister-child-omo-iya-osun

http://www.nairaland.com/67853/boy-adam-floats-headless-thames

4 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by foreignstudy: 2:36pm On May 22, 2013
She was a painter and this great woman was from Austria
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by dridowu: 2:36pm On May 22, 2013
Is she related to Arsene Wenger ?
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by PAGAN9JA(m): 2:37pm On May 22, 2013
9jadelta: black dnt appreciate what they have now. that's why blacks will always be sub-human

stop being racist. do we look like slaves here? we are Tribesmen. call us by our tribe or as Africans.

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by demelza: 2:40pm On May 22, 2013
What a remarkable woman!
OP thanks for this beautiful piece.

3 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by bonna4u(m): 2:42pm On May 22, 2013
When I saw the thread, I thought it was about Arsene Wengers mother or someone related to him. Anyway sha, she try but the thread too long.
Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by supaeagles(m): 2:44pm On May 22, 2013
demelza: What a remarkable woman!
OP thanks for this beautiful piece.
I second that.....and don't forget to like the OP's post - many people forget to do that - I think it helps in showing appreciation to the OP because FP privileges are just momentary while likes stay on after the thread is no longer on FP..., smiley

1 Like

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Nobody: 2:47pm On May 22, 2013
The real turning point came in 1950 when she was seriously ill with tuberculosis. As at that time, Nigeria was under British colonialism and there was no doctor on ground to help her from the disease that was slowly killing her from the inside. After various attempts to cure her tuberculosis, they gave up on her and expected her to die until help came from an unlikely source: from the Yorubas.

^^^God bless the Yoruba's, orishas, and Yoruba religion.

Looking forward to studying more about Ifa and Yoruba metaphysics.

4 Likes

Re: Suzanne Wenger: Nigeria’s Mystical Priestess by Born2beRich1(m): 2:49pm On May 22, 2013
SO arsene wenger mama dey naija... cheesy

1 Like

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