About: Kasali Akangbe Ogun: Master Woodcarver and Sculptor

 
   
 

Kasali Akangbe Ogun was born to be a prolific wood carver. He was raised in Osogbo, Osun State in the late 1940’s. He stems from Arelagbayi, families that transmit the sacred craft through heredity. In his own case, the sequence was interrupted for two generations. His father happens to be a successful cocoa farmer and powerful hunter, and also a prominent Ogun (the God of Iron) devotee during his lifetime. Akangbe’s mother was a trader in several famous markets in Osogbo. The untimely death of his father at a tender age put an end abruptly to Kasali’s primary education.
He moved to a neighboring village and worked as a laborer on farms for 6 years. He came back to Osogbo to learn carpentry under the tutelage of Mr. Salawu between 1972 and 1976. He rapidly became a certificated carpenter.

OSUN GROVE

It was in the Osun Grove where he met the artist Suzanne Wenger. This was during the period of his apprenticeship. He was often given work cutting grass as a means to earn money. He came to the Groves with his colleagues on a consistent basis.

NEW SACRED ART
After he became certified in 1976, he was summoned by Mama Suzanne Wenger (Adunni Olorisa), an Austrian who dedicated her life to the goddess Osun, and she asked him to work with her in restoring the long abandoned Osun Grove.

He worked in making mud wall figures, scaffolding and iron reinforcing for her very large mud sculptures. During their working spree in the Osun grove, there were instances where he introduced his own carving philosophy to Suzanne Wenger. Adunni  saw the talent in him and she gave him the needed support and asked him to always be with her as a partner in the revival of the Yoruba traditions. Most of Kasali’s works have been for the beautification of the Osun Shrine at Osogbo. He became a New Sacred Artist and was inspired to carve works dedicated to the orisa. He was paid a token amount for those works by Adunni Olorisa, who sadly passed away in January of 2009, well into her 90’s. CREATIVITY

Kasali’s unique method of making creative representation was something he saw in a dream where he his father took him to a particular place. He said, “The place I saw in my dream was like a blacksmith’s workshop. I clearly saw many of my ancestors, all carving wood. Amongst their carving, I saw some in a style that I really love; when I woke up I started to work in that style. I believe that is why my own system of carving is different from others; not only other Yoruba wood carvers but also other wood carvers around the world.”

ROOF MAKING and WALL MAKING ART
Kasali’s versatility in the field of art is obvious, especially when one visits Osun grove and sees the stunning roofs, walls and magnificent pillars he made in the shrines, such as the IIledi Ohuntoto. He made similar roofs in other places outside the grove for individuals who wished to have them. His ability to make traditional structures using ancient techniques in modern times became apparent when he led a team in constructing a unique bathroom in the Osun grove. This was sponsored by cocacola nig.plc.
 
INTERNATIONAL VISIONARY

The creativity in his work has brought him fame in the U.S.A. where he was given membership and honored as Master Image Maker of traditional fine Art at the National Black Theater in Central Harlem, New York, in 1991. He met Dr. Barbra Ann Teer in the Osun Grove and was invited by Dr. Teer, the founder and CEO of The National Black Theater, Inc. to come to Harlem. He was selected by Suzanne Wenger and offered an appointment, along with five other Osogbo artists, to design the largest New Sacred Art Collection in the Western Hemisphere. He also represented Africa in an international symposium with world renowned wood carving wizards like Eric Robert Korewha (New Zealand), I Ketut Muja (Indonesia), Wayne Carlick (Canada), I Wayan Mudana (Indonesia). Gerald Moroder (Italy), which took place in Saxony, Germany, September 2002.
His work has always been based on ancestral symbols or figures of Yoruba gods and goddess. As a traditional wood carver, little wonder that his exhibition at Edinburgh festival 1994 was tagged: The Yoruba Gods: One Man’s Visions.
The complexity of his works is a security against plagiarism and he is well aware of this, so he displays his work in his studio for clients to see. His work can also be found at Quintessence Gallery, Falomo Shopping Center (Ikoyi Lagos), National Black Theater (Harlem, New York), Goethe Institute Lagos, Nike Art Gallery , Daet Centrum Liechtenstein Gumh Schlossaliee 209350 Liechtenstein,Germany.
 
On the first of July 1987, the National Commission offered him an appointment as staff at Museum and Monuments. A commendation was given by the Nigeria Government for his relentless efforts with Suzanne Wenger in making sure the Osun grove attained its prestigious place as a world famous tourist center. 

Kasali’s sons are already following in his footsteps with bright potential so that the legacy doesn’t end. Adekunle and Dada are the most active in the arts with their father currently. Adekunle has been representing the Kasalis for more than a decade now.

Kasali has travelled far and wide attending symposiums and exhibitions, especially in the Western World with the help of his promoters like the Late Chief Mrs. Barbra Ann Teer, Mrs. Elise Johnson, Mrs. H. Mimra, Mr. Peter Daetz, Chief Mrs. Nike Okundaye and many other whose help is greatly appreciated.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL COMMENTS

“Every year there are artists who raise the money to come to Edinburgh to take part in the world Art festival and find they simply can’t attract attention. Even if critics come, audiences don’t. Kasali Akangbe Ogun from Nigeria was luckier. The critics missed him, but he found buyers for half the 58 wood carving in his exhibition, the Yoruba Gods. The British council and the Nigeria Tobacco Company sponsored the Yoruba Gods Kasali fringe exhibition. The exhibition, which was Kasali’s first in the United Kingdom, attracted a great deal of interest: he demonstrated daily during the exhibition at the commonwealth institutes. Kasali successfully captured the attention of many younger visitors, reducing small children to awed silence as he quietly carved in a light, airy room overlooking the Edinburgh skyline. It is hoped that Kasali will return again to the festival with the greater publicity machine of the Edinburgh festival behind him to allow his work to be on display far an even larger local and international audience.” SCOTTISH LINKS, WINTER 1994, ISSUE EIGHT, FESTIVAL FRINGE SUCCESS KASALI AKANGBE

At “Drum,Pots, Wood”, an exhibition of traditional art featured recently at Quintessence, Falomo, Ikoyi, Lagos, sculptures which belong to the Osogbo carving tradition of art stood out. “For Kasali Akangbe Ogun whose interest is in wood carving, the fame of Osogbo tradition art is easy for him to share as a result of the exclusivity of his craft. Kasali’s works are mostly faces of the different gods of Yoruba land. Who knows if his creative wit is traceable to Ogun (Yoruba God), the god with whom he shares his surname? The works show an affinity to the Yoruba gods in whom Kasali believes very strongly.”
Business Day, Friday, 07/03/03
EFFERVESCENCE OF OSOGBO TRADITIONAL ART KASALI AKANGBE OGUN

EXHIBITION AND SYMPOSIUM SHOWINGS
1980: Took part in a group exhibition at the Goethe Institute Lagos
1980: Took part in three further exhibition at Goethe Institute, Lagos
1981: “Contemporary Arts from Western Nigeria” Group Exhibition. Zamera Gallery, London
1988:Nov.: “Nigeria Art: Outstanding Work by Six Artists” Africa Center London.
1989: Joint exhibition with Suzanne Wenger and two other artists Hamburg Germany.
1989: Exhibition of five Artists, Iwalewa House, Bayrouth university, Bayrouth, Germany.
1990: Contemporary Arts from Western Nigeria Africa Center London.
1990 Aug.: Recognized as “A full member and Master Image Maker” of school of Traditional Fine Art in Central Harlem New York, U.S.A.
1990-1991: Workshop in National Black Theater, Harlem New York to demonstrate design and carving techniques especially use of the adze. Commissioned to do work carried out for over four-five months in 1990 & 1991 which consisted of three 10 ft. by 6 in. high totem style sculptures which act as pillars in the building, as carved doors.
1991: Exhibition in National Black Theatre Harlem, New York, of work carried out for the building by Mr. Ogun and two other Artists.
1992-1993: Exhibitions at the new theater complex, National Black Theater, Harlem, New York, U.S.A.
1994: One Man Exhibition “The Yoruba Gods: One Man’s Vision” Edinburgh Festivals England.
1995 May: Party pieces join exhibition with Andrew Smith, KINGFISHER GALLERY, England.
1996-1997: Another one-man exhibition entitled “Retrieved Memorie”, Quintessence Gallery, Lagos.
1999: Commissioned to do work in National Black Theater, Harlem, NYC, USA, also at Robert H. Lowes House, NYC, NY10037, USA.
2000 Nov. Osogbo Harvest From The Land of Culture, Group exhibition Goethe Institute, Lagos.
2001: Took part in an open Air Gallery tagged LEONDINER EIGENART 2001 which featured 23 Artists from around the world in Austria.
2002 Aug.: Took part in  an International symposium in Liechtenstein, Germany. That International symposium comprised wood carvers from Europe, Asia, Australia, America and Africa.
2003 Feb. In an exhibition tagged “Drums pots and wood exhibition”, exhibition at Quintessence Gallery, Lagos.
2004 Commissioned work and joint Exhibition in IOWA
2005 till date: Continues to exhibit his works and display in his studio.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carrol Totherow
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 09:23:55

    I don’t normally comment but I gotta state regards for the post on this great one : D.

    Reply

  2. Cletus Spink
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 19:58:37

    I actually wished to compose a small note to thank for you for many of the pleasant secrets you happen to be showing on this website.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Nigerian Master Woodcarver Offers Lectures, Creates Art, Conducts Workshops During Time at UNC Charlotte | Exchange Online
  4. Ifayori Arayomi
    Feb 03, 2014 @ 05:45:43

    Modupe for the beautiful art work that depicst the beauty and power of the orishas.It would be a blessing to be able to own one of these beautiful and powerful works of art,

    Reply

  5. Oduanla
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 22:37:43

    I have purchased several pieces from the Akangbe family for my Orisa shrine. Upon purchase, I was very detailed with how I wanted the artwork. The Akangbe family were very accommodating, paid great attention to detail, were communicative and very professional throughout the process of completing each piece. As such, I plan to make additional purchases and encourage those in the Orisa lifestyle and culture to do the same. It is truly a privilege to have artwork from such an exceptional family of woodcarvers and artists, as well as a custodians and conservators of Yoruba culture, art and tradition.

    Reply

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