Monday, May 02, 2005

Kindness in Oshogbo

(continued ...)

Nike's kindness didn't end with taking charge of us at the Sacred Grove. She took us back to her home for dinner.

Nike shared a large house with several co-wives. In the courtyard of the house there were several artists at work in different media and we watched them at work as we ate a delicious meal of amala (my favourite fufu) okra soup and pepper soup.

Nike introduced her husband, who went by the unlikely name of Twins Seven-Seven. He was not a good-looking man, but had a strong sexual aura about him. I didn’t find out who he was until I started leafing through the albums of press-cuttings on the table.

Twins Seven Seven was so named because he was the only surviving child of seven sets of twins. Twins have special spiritual significance in Yoruba culture. A seventh child (even in Western culture) and is thought to have occult powers. Twins was also believed to be an abiku, a child who is so torn between the spirit world and this one, that after it is born, it immediately dies to reenter the womb at the next conception. And of course he represented the spiritual fulfimement of all the thirteen other dead children his mother had given birth too. How could this man fail to be someone special?

Twins' spiritual fulfillment came from his art. He was one of Nigeria’s foremest artists, and leader of the famous Oshogbo group.

Nike had been working with her mother, dying batik cloth in the traditional Nigerian way (using starch and indigo) when Twins discovered her. With his encouragement she went on to become a world-famous artist with exhibitions in cities across the world, including London and Los Angeles.

(Nike's embroidered picture of Oshun)

When I started writing this entry, I looked Nike up on the internet and found that she was as active as ever. She has set up a centre to help local women artists. She's still exhibiting overseas, and her children have followed in her footsteps.

I truly thank her from the bottom of my heart for taking care of a couple of lost tourists and teaching them something of the cultural life of the Yoruba. My visit to Oshogbo remains a very treasured memory.

(Nike in traditional attire)

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