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One Yr After The Exit Of The Osun Priestess - Culture - Nairaland

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One Yr After The Exit Of The Osun Priestess by aloyemeka7: 6:45am On Jan 17, 2010
Marking one year of Susanne Wenger's death
January 16, 2010 11:04PM


Tuesday, January 12 was the first anniversary of the death of the high priestess of the Osun grove, Suzanne Wenger known as Adunni Olorisa.

In confirmation of the Yoruba proverb, ‘bi onirese ba ko ti o fin igba mo, eyi to ti fin sile koni parun lailai' meaning ‘if the master carver no longer produces exquisite calabashes, the ones s/he has produced will never perish,' Adunni's legacy remain.

A daughter and other associates spoke with NEXT on life without the Austrian and efforts to immortalise her.

Doyin Faniyi, Adunni's adopted daughter

[January 12] made it a year that Mama left us but we just marked the occasion spiritually. The family observed the rites that we were supposed to observe; members of the public were not involved. What the committee agreed on was that the first anniversary should be held in April when we did her burial ceremony. The committee has not agreed on the form the anniversary will take so I can't say anything on it now.

We are fine because we know she has not abandoned us. We miss her but that is life. She used to say death is part of nature; that's a reality of life she had always stressed to us. We are all doing well, her works are intact and we are using the workshop in the house. Members of the New Sacred Art Movement are fine too, we had an exhibition in Lagos last October.

Jimoh Buraimoh, artist and chief of Osogbo

They held prayers for her and served akara (bean cakes). It was also decided that the anniversary should be moved to the month we had the burial ceremony. [The] affair was a private one, it involved only the inner circle, we are going to invite the public in April.

We are yet to conclude on what we are going to do because we are planning many things. Work is in progress in the Artist Village in the Osun Grove while members of Mama's Sacred Art group are working in the grove. The National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) has set up an implementation committee maintaining the grove. They tell the committee about any restoration or construction work they want to do in the grove and the Museum and the Adunni Olorisa Trust (AOT) make money available to members of the group to restore decaying works which they are doing now.

Turning Adunni's grave to a tourist site

That's part of what the committee is deliberating on. Though it will be sacred, it will be a place people can visit. We are still deliberating, we have not decided if we will let people know the place. We have discussed it but have not concluded on the modality to adopt for people to visit the grave if we are going to mark it. Will it be by invitation or will it be open? There should be a guard who will watch over it like there are people taking care of Ile Osun.

Muraina Oyelami, artist and Eesa of Iragbiji

Work has commenced on the restoration of damaged works in the grove, people are there as we speak. Sangodare and Doyin are also taking good care of the house. The group of sacred artists that worked with Mama led by Adebisi Akanji are the ones restoring sculptures that need attention in the grove.

There is no specific ceremony so far but traditionalists, dancers, musicians and actors in Osogbo and its environment are marking the first anniversary informally. I don't miss her too much because her works that I see don't make me feel that she is no longer with us.

John Adeleke, president, Adunni Olorisa Trust

As a Non-Governmental Organisation or foundation, if you like, we are not doing anything officially. We have plans to do many things over the year, we have started already. We started about three weeks ago with repairing a number of the statues in the grove. We managed to raise some funds for that; we are also doing some repairs of the house.

Back in October, we did an exhibition for the New Sacred Art Movement at Quintessence in Lagos and there are other initiatives that we hope to take in the coming months and years to justify the effort that Mama made and to maintain her legacy. We have been looking at reprinting one or two of her books. There is interest in shows, films and documentary works and so on. There is a lot happening. We can work with the local community to also ensure that the legacies remain.

One of the things that I find exciting is that these days, you don't really have to fight for the preservation of the grove. The people of Osogbo, the international authorities and others are as keen as anybody else to ensure that the legacies are maintained. And I think one of the things that I find most exciting was being in the grove about six months ago around 5 and 6 in the evening and seeing the amount of wildlife from monkeys and others that was just roaming within the grove so that effectively, it has become its own conservation area which I think is really impressive.

In the days gone by, there was a real need to protect the grove from encroachment and poachers but these days, even the farmers on their way back from the farms in the evenings, often they bring part of their harvest for the monkeys and other primates in the grove. So, it really shows that the Mama instilled in the whole community the significance of the grove and I think that is impressive.


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