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.