Artists

Asiru Olatunde

1918-1993

An Introduction to Folk at Heart

Asiru Olatunde

Born: 1918
Place of Birth: Osogobo
Died: 1993

Asiru’s work was not concerned with realism. His line was sensitive, the mood poetic. There was always a peaceful warmth about his work that reflected the personality of the artist himself.

– Ulli Beier

Asiru Olatunde (1918–1993) was a Nigerian artist and blacksmith. He is associated with a small group of artists who were part of a creative community known as the Oshogbo School of Art. His subject matter combines Yoruba mythology and Biblical stories intertwined with local folklore. Olatunde went on to develop a repoussé metalwork technique, which involves
the shaping of copper, aluminium and iron. Born into a family of blacksmiths before illness forced him to stop in the 1960s, he transitioned into fine art on the advice of Ulli
Beier and Suzanne Wenger in 1961.

Olatunde came from a family of blacksmiths, but illness forced him to end blacksmithing. Despite his disease, it transformed him into one of Osogbo’s most famous artists today. During his lifetime Olatunde had many exhibitions. In 1965 he had a solo exhibition in Viruly Gallery Amsterdam and later at the IMF headquarters in Washington, Prague. He has work in the collection of the Smithsonian Institute, Museum of African Art and DePaul Art Museum Chicago, the University of Bristol, and the University of Tasmania. His notable artworks include Dance scenes, Scenes of hunting, Biblical scenes: Adam and Eve and The Garden of Eden, and Yoruba stories, like Animal Tree or Tree of Life. These scenes, bordered with decorative triangles and hemispheres, fill in gaps in the design. One image seen repeatedly throughout his work is the Tree of Life, a universal motif that recalls his connections to the groves of the Osun shrine.


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