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The Art of Tunde Odunlade


Everyday there are worlds waiting to be found. If you are persistent and with a bit of luck, you may find a few exceptional ones. In a quiet corner of Ibadan, I found Tunde Odunlade.

Criss-crossing the sprawling city, It took a while to find  him, but we did. We were swept into the hands of an artist totally involved with the idea of ” art with a purpose in nation building”.

He welcomed us like old friends and we wandered into his world without walls.

Warm, witty, intelligent, creative and erudite, Odunlade is an exceptional artist and a charming host. An Ife prince, Odunlade moved from Ile-Ife to Ibadan in the 70’s.

With over 42 years as a successful textile and fiber art specialist, his style is engaging and diverse.  Floatographs. Bartiking, marbling caligraphy and Adire. Beading on textiles and beaded appliqués. But there is more.

Intricate and intriguing, Odunlade wants you to enjoy the beauty and creativity in his soul but not without thinking about yours.

We talked about “Oju Inu, agba oye” , Odunlade’s upcoming exhibition at University of Ibadan’s Institute of African Studies on the end of August 2017.

This exhibition takes as its premise the Yoruba proverb : “Oye lagba wo, iriri sagba ohun gbogbo” which means the elderly seeks first to understand while experience supersedes all things.

Hence, ” Oju inu, agba Oye” takes us on a journey. It examines the indigenous  knowledge of the Yoruba people passed down through the generations in proverbs, idioms, folklore and traditional skills such as Adire . This knowledge is enriching, the basis for the understanding and value of self.

With pieces like “Oya goddess of the wind” and “Oduduwa”, the examination of Yoruba mythology and heritage is inherent in many of the pieces.

When you consume Odunlade’s  art, you must engage with your social, and political consciousness- your place and purpose in society. Each piece evoked particular ideas.  The failure of the Nigerian state. Underdevelopment in Africa. The colonial legacy. Yoruba history and Heritage. Karma and consciousness.

Very quickly, I realised that I would have to keep up with the dexterity of Odunlade’s intellect and prolific creativity.

This  art has travelled the world. Odunlade  had shared his vision with audiences at  the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, the  Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Jordan museum of Art and many more.

His work  resonates.

It draws attention by its range of techniques, its beauty and its embedded narratives. For a few hours, I was driven into a world of absolute synergy between artist and his art.

Beyond aesthetics, Odunlade wants you affected. This is not art for the fun of it. This is art that speaks to you about your intentions, motivations  and your everyday interactions with the world in which you live.

I am glad Tunde Odunlade invited me to his home and allowed me to travel with him into his visionary world.



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  • Reply
    Kehinde Bamigbetan
    August 20, 2017 at 11:23 am

    This enriching account of the engagement of the artist and his art has added a lot to my knowledge. And makes me .wonder, if the princely art is not by self-interest a means of preserving his traditional pedigree. From the reportage, the focus on themes of mythology and genealogy-Oduduwa et al- in a period of rapid change suggests a detachment from social commentary and perhaps social activism. Is this a correct appreciation of Odunlade? Maybe he is just bringing the bird from the pocket
    ..who knows? The Exhibition shall hopefully untie the knot.

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks Kehinde for these thoughtful comments. Odunlade is in very many ways an activist. His current exhibition digresses into the Yoruba heritage only as a means to engage with the idea of us looking inward as a people to find the values and efficacy within the traditional narratives.
      There are also pices in the exhibition whic deal with the social difficulties in Nigeria.

      Visit the exhibition if you can.

      Thanks for visiting and supporting Osupa.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you for featuring this artist on your blog. The world needs to see more of our hardworking, talented citizens.

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Thanks Moji. Our country is full of very talented individuals doing fantastic work. Thanks so much for supporting Osupa.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Wow, what striking colours and amazing art work, really stunning. Great article too.

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks Deola for your comments. Tunde Odunlade was really personable and an amazing artist.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Hidden treasures are all around us if we allow ourselves to “see” them! Great job at capturing not only the art but the essence of the artist!


    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Tolutolu! Thanks for visiting and your really thoughtful comments. The world is full of these treasures. It’s great to find and share.

      Thanks for supporting Osupa

  • Reply
    August 20, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Truly there is so much art and talent around us. Some never get acknowledged. When you break a wall in a building and put a window in there, you realize how much had been happening on that side of the building that has been oblivious to all within the building. I like your journey. A chronicle of the world from a perspective so simple, exciting and warm. Your trip speaks warmth with humility. I think your catalog will be a resource of great value in some years to come. Do enjoy your journey my dear one. Life really is under-lived by most of us

    • Reply
      August 20, 2017 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks For your thoughtful comments Bayo. I really do feel that there is so much missed as we over complicate our lives. Truly it’s fantastic to meet individuals who are so completely involved with their art, passion and love it in every way.
      Thanks for supporting Osupa

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