Press Release: August 2015
Official OPENING of the Arch of the Flying Tortoise, a remarkable work of art in the UNESCO World Heritage site in Osogbo, by the DG of NCMM, the Republic of Austria and the original artists. The Opening will be followed by a tour of the restored sculptures and monuments.

On Wednesday, August 20th at 4 pm in Osogbo in the UNESCO World Heritage site Osun-Osogbo, the National Commission of Museum and Monuments (NCMM) and the Susanne Wenger Adunni Olorisha Trust will celebrate and officially OPEN the reconstructed gateway to the Groves, the Arch of the Flying Tortoise.  The Arch of the Flying Tortoise is a monumental work of art created in the 1960’s by Susanne Wenger and the artists of the New Sacred Art Movement that she mentored.  Following the ribbon cutting the artists will lead a tour of other restored works of art in the Osun-Osogbo Groves.

Presiding at the event will be: Mallam Yusuf Abdallah Usman, Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments; Nella Hengstler, Commercial Counsellor of the Republic of Austria; Robin and Hugh Campbell of the Susanne Wenger Adunni Olorisha Trust (AOT) and the artists of the New Sacred Art Movement who worked with Susanne Wenger: Sangodare Ajala, Adebisi Akanji, Adeyemi Oseni, Rabiu Abesu, Nurudeen Akanji,  Bintu Lamidi, and Ojewoole Amoos.

UNESCO designation recognizes the significance of the art, arguably the most impressive sculpture installation in the world.

Susanne Wenger, an Austrian, and the group of artists that she mentored, created monumental works of art in the Sacred Groves of Osogbo depicting Yoruba deities starting in the 1960’s until early 2000.  Susanne Wenger passed away in Osogbo in 2009 at the age of 93 leaving a remarkable legacy of art and an internationally recognized group of artists known as The New Sacred Art Movement.

In 2005, the Sacred Groves were awarded the UNESCO World Heritage designation.  The site is recognized both for the significance of the art, arguably the most impressive sculpture installation in the world, and for its role in sustaining cultural traditions.

Works of Art in the Groves need to be restored NOW or they will be lost forever!

Over the years the sculptures originally made of reinforced cement and laterite have deteriorated and some, such as the Arch of the Flying Tortoise, fell down completely.  Fortunately, a few of the elderly members of the original art movement are still active artists and can restore the sculptures to their original beauty,  including Adebisi Akanji, Rabiu Abesu, and Adeyemi Oseni. It is imperative that these remarkable works of art are restored now while the elderly the artist are still able to do the work and to mentor younger artists.

If the works of art are not restored and preserved NOW, we risk losing these internationally recognized treasures and the heritage that is the cornerstone of tourism and a core contributor to the economic development of Osun State.

The Adunni Olorisha Trust raises money to fund the artists to restore the works of art using high quality materials that will last for decades ensuring that this rich artistic and cultural heritage is preserved for future generations. The Trust works closely with its partner, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM).

The Arch of the Flying Tortoise was entirely rebuilt by artists Adebisi and Nurudeen Akanji

The outstanding cement arch called Arch of the Flying Tortoise was the original entrance to the Groves. It was entirely rebuilt by Adebisi Akanji and his son, Nurudeen Akanji, in 2014 under the direction of Sangodare Ajala from photographs and from memory. The sculpture had fallen down and completely disintegrated many years ago.  Adebisi Akanji was Susanne’s closest associate in the creation of most of the works of art in the Osun Groves.  He taught Susanne Wenger how to work with cement in the late 1950’s.  They worked together for over 40 years.  Adebisi has mentored his son, Nurudeen, who also is a remarkable artist and expert, in this great art form.  The Republic of Austria funded this restoration and is represented by Nella Hengstler, the Austrian Commercial Counsellor.

The meaning behind the flying Tortoise motive is described by Susanne as follows: “In many cultures the tortoise represents matter-the opaque and heavy aspects of the divine. But nothing can keep its heaviness intact when entering the precincts of Osun’s influence.”

More Information

For more information about The UNESCO World Heritage Site Osun Osogbo, also known as the Sacred Groves, Susanne Wenger the art, the artists and The Adunni Olorisha Trust please go to the website: www.susannewenger-aot.org or call Robin Campbell of the AOT at 0807 277 8322