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Shrine Paintings: Sacred Yoruba Art

Elegantly symmetrical lines of black and white pigment, perfectly formed spirals and the striking pink background of the walls and pillars . I was not prepared for all this beauty. The walls cast an ambiance; soft, alluring and feminine. I sensed these murals were special in a way I couldn’t explain.

 

A visit to  Oshun grove on the outskirts of Oshogbo town began here at the palace of the Ataoja of Oshogbo.

In this pristine shrine  to the  Oshun goddess, the priestesses welcomed me with the warmest of smiles and stories of how it all began. While I listened, my eyes were dazzled by the murals on the walls.

 

 

Immediately relaxed, I walked down the narrow concrete corridor to meet with the guardians of the  Oshun shrine.

We spoke of many things. As they chanted and made supplications to Oshun the goddess of fertility and the giver of life, they told stories. Tales of the great hunter Olutimilehin  and king Larooye Gbadewolu and his first palace -Ile Osun.

We spoke about me; my path and my dreams. I was completely  compelled by these women of great knowledge. I simply did not get to ask about the murals. However, I never forgot how they made me feel and the questions they raised in my mind.

Now a year later, in a chance conversation with the esteemed African Art Historian Professor Moyo Okediji, my questions finally find solace.

These murals which fascinated and intrigued me are part of a revered tradition. These beautifully cryptic shapes, patterns and motifs are sacred constellations dedicated to the pantheon of deities-collectively called orishas- worshipped by the Yoruba.

It  is intriguing to discover that these murals-an expression of religious devotion- continue to be painted even today by women olorishas  as they have been for hundreds of years.

From royal beadwork to intricate  mask forms, pottery, weaving, metalwork, sculptures in wood and brass, the multiplicity of Yoruba Art is a reflection of the deeply embedded traditional religious beliefs of the Yoruba people.

These delicate and sacred paintings of the orisha shrines impeccably reflects the range these diverse and elegant artistic  forms.

 

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