a picture showing moyo okediji standing next to his artwork

I studied with the Ìyàmi.

I studied with the Ìyàmi,

the Power Mothers who

suspend the global ball

on a single frail string,

yet it cannot snap.

After they gave me the name Ọ̀rìságbèmí Arígbábuwó, I transcend the boundaries of gender, race, time, and geography.

Here is the story of that transcendental embodiment, in its most concise form.

After completing my doctorate in the early 90s, I returned to painting for two reasons: I wanted to kindle my lifelong passion: and continue my research into Yoruba indigenous painting traditions.

In the ancient city of Ile Ife, I discovered a wonderful painter, Tinuomi Afilaka, an artist who was already in her seventies when I met her in 2001, and who would continue working for another fifteen years before her transition in 2016.

She was a genius, Àjẹ́, who had invented a calligraphy painting system that I characterize as Ètò–meaning organization, arrangement, order, structure, configuration, pattern, etc. She always painted white on a black background. She executed her murals on the walls of the shrines in Ile Ife.

Just like me, she was crazy. All artists need a measure of madness, without which it is impossible to improvise. Her madness manifested in her absolute passion for painting, which she shared with me.

I quickly learned the alphabets of her self-invented calligraphy. In exchange, I taught her to paint on canvas. More importantly, I introduced her to the wonders of executing her work in acrylic. Between the two of us, we developed a painting idiom that is both colorful and distinctive.

Most significantly, we formulated a picture plane beyond spatial boundary—beyond top, bottom, left or right. The paintings are double-edged swords for cutting through the borders of letters, sound, and images.

An example is found in this work posted here.

You can turn it upside down, and still read it.

Interested in some of my published works?

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