Osogbo, A City of Art and Abstraction

Osogbo is a city half-awake – Adeyinka Seth

Creative Island Osogbo Trip 2022

There are three ways to explore and learn about a city. The first is to find its roots. The second is to look at its art. The third is something you might not have heard before. Go with a bunch of strangers and listen to them do two things – first, listen to them tell the city’s stories from their coloured lenses. Second, hear them share a bit of themselves with everyone. 

The creative Island gave me a gift of people and places with an immersive trip to Osogbo, Osun state. It was a place I had never been to before. In fact, it was my first ever personal holiday. You would agree with me that it made it extra special. 

Most of all, it allowed me to be creative again. If you bring 10 young persons together and send them to Osogbo, what do you get? Well, you are about to find out. How did this happen? Let’s get back to the beginning. 

I’m an introvert with a special twist. More on the special twist later. I thrive on creativity. My life is boring without it. That was the exact place I found myself, nearly a year into a job I really loved. I felt boxed in, and my creative juice bottle was empty. I knew it was time to leave. 

It was never about them. I had done the best I could. Even at that, I still felt stuck. I already knew I would need something extra to cure my creative malady. Nothing feeds a creative’s mind like an adventure. Enter Creative Island. In this article, I’ll cover the following: 

Disclaimer

The Good Part

Inside the Town

We, the tourist

What Others Said

Everything I hate About the Trip

After the Gbas Gbos

Let’s dive in!

 

Disclaimer

Only a few things are perfect. This trip isn’t one of them. I had quite a number of axes to grind, but you can read all about it in the last section. 

Let’s Go to The Good Part.  

I promised you something about being a different kind of introvert. When I’m around you, I want to hear you talk. What kind of storyteller does that make me?  Second-hand story specialist. 

Most times, we underestimate how our individual stories change our narration of joint experiences.  I decided to be just at the periphery of everything happening. I was going to experience the journey more than once. From others’ perspectives. 

We started our exploration at the Osogbo sacred grove. As soon as we drove in, the wonderful artwork welcomed us. They were lined across the walls down to the place where the groove was. The thing that struck me first was the number of sculptures that were on display. 

Osogbo Sacred Groove Gate

There was a crazy abundance to it. Even as we toured the city, Osogbo was a place of carving, sculpting, and moulding. From wood and stone to iron and brass, they had them all. It had an eerie vibe like you had entered somewhere sacred. 

The Osogbo sacred grove is a place of gods. There is no need to bore you with the details. I’d like to share something else. The air has a reverence to it. Because it is mostly a carefully curated forest, there is a chillness to it. 

The trees tower above you, and the sound reverberates. When you observe silence, the forest calls out to you. It is a whispering sound. Soothing enough to put you to sleep. In the same way, it feels like an outlet.

In the sacred groove, your skin does not crawl, except when you observe a sacrifice. You are just in awe of the surrounding- and the practice. We witnessed a live sacrifice. Nature does something to you in its intimidating magnificence and glory. It purifies you – sight and mind. 

We will talk about the healing nature of greenery in another post. But when you mix nature and fetish (no, this is not used in a demeaning way), you are transported to a different feeling. No thanks to the narrator, who made sure he told the stories in ways that could intimidate you.

A place for sacrifice for childbirth to the Osun goddess

The reactions of my crew were quite telling. I looked around to observe carefully. While some would not go as close to any of the sculptures – especially the ones that represented gods of some sort – some others were connecting with their inner source or energy. Some people say it’s chakra. I could sense the wonder, but there was a tinge of trepidation. Someone gave me the stare for nicknaming one of the gods. Need I say more?

I was going to skip the monkeys until Yinka mentioned them. There were a lot of monkeys at the sacred groove, adding an extra bit of mystique to the surrounding. Just like Yomi said. We will come back to Yomi in a bit, but here’s something from Yinka. 

We have monkeys who are our evolutionary cousins but are so much beneath us. However, they derive pleasure in simple things like giving them bananas. It made me realize that whether we are animals or human beings, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Being as eager as the monkeys to approach life is such an important way to live. Like them, we need to constantly evolve and not chose the old way of doing things.  -Adeyinka Seth.

Did I mention that Yomi Elieonai, a potential filmmaker, had quite an experience? He was our host and the brain behind creative Island.  

Osogbo as a place has quite a mystique to it. The trip acted as a spur for me. I decided to go into filmmaking this year [2022]. There are a lot of stories to explore. There is the guidance of the tour guide as well as an unexpected but invigorating narrative ability. This has spurred me to explore our cultural heritage.  -Yomi Elionai 

Inside The Town

We mostly visited art locations. The Nike Art gallery had quite the collection. But even as you moved through art and the crevices of the Osogbo town, you could see how interwoven the people were with their gods. What do you expect from a city that got its name from an interaction with the gods? 

There’s considerable development, but it is interwoven with their history to preserve it. There is also a certain love for abstraction in Osogbo’s arts. But when the source of your inspiration is deities you rarely ever know what they look like, abstraction is the closest you can come to represent them.

There is also a lovely adoration for women, especially their bodies. There are carvings and paintings that celebrate this. Outside the warriors and hunters, men rarely get a historical representation. Case in point, most of the gods were female. 

I will not forget the artwork in the place we stayed. It was a wood carving of a woman, in all her naked beauty. The body was slender, but the bust and boobs were voluptuous. When I came out to read for a bit, it felt like I was watching a strip dancer. I had to hide her behind the pillar. 

We, The Tourists

Osogbo Visit April 22

So, what did others say about the town throughout the Visit? 

There is a sleepy feel to the city. It’s like a city caught in a trance. Adeyinka Seth agrees with me. He is one of the most intriguing people I met during the trip.  

I quite like the city of Osogbo. It looks like a city that is half awake. The places you go to seem to be open, but not quite open. Everyone is moving around, but not in a hurry to get anywhere. – Adeyinka Seth

I thought the discussion was great, But I wasn’t the only one who thought the discussion was great. Yinka did, Yomi did. 

I enjoyed the scenery as well as the conversations with people. One of the reasons we created creative Island and I look forward to it is meeting new people. People are beautiful. Despite all that happens in the world today, beautiful people are still people. Having trips like these makes you see the beauty in people. The synergy amongst us was flawless. – Yomi Elieonai

I learned a lot. I wouldn’t have spent my weekend any other way. 

Interior of The Nike Art Gallery Lodge, Osogbo

Everything I hated About The Trip to Osogbo With Creative Island. 

Everything was not rosy from the start, or even at the end. I had five issues with the whole arrangement, and you would do well to look out for each of them. 

To put it as it is, I considered going home after I experienced a delay at the very start. We had been warned not to arrive late, so I didn’t take it well when the organizers then became those that wasted time. For one, I thought it was an error of judgement. Second, it was a total disregard for people’s time. 

Secondly, it takes forever to get your pictures. If you took pictures with your phone or others’ phones, you might get them in time. However, if you mean pictures with the photographer that you would want to work with later, you would have to think twice about that. 

It’s probably one of two things. First is that no such arrangement was made, and the professional photographer was also trying to have a good time. While this is excusable, it doesn’t make it fair. 

The second, which I think is even more disastrous, is that there was no professional photographer provided for the journey. Pictures are an important part of our lives. It’s how we share memories. You cannot not make arrangements for that.  

The third issue was around stress management and timing. If you are going to a place you have never been before, you want to make sure that you immerse yourself in everything. It’s something you can’t do when you are tired or stressed. 

We travelled from Ibadan to Osogbo on Saturday. When we had finished at the Sacred Groove, it was slightly late, and I just wanted somewhere to relax – I had left my house around 7 am and technically stood for between 2 and 3 hours before I was picked up. But we had to head to an art gallery, even if there was a nearly inaudible protest that we should head to our lodge. 

We got there close to 7 pm, we couldn’t ask questions, explored art with tired eyes – which shouldn’t be. The gallery guide couldn’t give us proper attention to us. I was too dazed to attempt to ask. You can’t blame them. This was close of work. For a city half asleep and half awake, they would rather be sleeping. 

Another sticking point was that I thought that we could use a little more variation in destination choices. Art indeed shows the soul of a city, but we visited one too many art centres. 

Case in point, we spent time going to a “batik centre” but the significance of the location was lost on most of us. While this speaks to storytelling, there is no point in going to a place where we can not appreciate its relevance and significance. 

The final point for me was around indoor fun and games. The discussion was great, and I loved most of it. However, there was a paucity of games. No chess boards, no draughts, no ludo, monopoly, scrabble, nothing.  

There are many interesting games for young people. No, not games that involve drinking alcohol and water when you lose – I’d never be able to understand young adults’ fixation on these kinds of games. There need to be well-thought-out options. This is because we were mostly indoors. If we were at a beachfront, maybe it wouldn’t be so necessary.

After the Gbas Gbos

After reading the last section, you’d think that it was a bore-party. Nothing could be further from the truth. This was my most relaxing experience in at least 6 months. 

I knew I needed it, but I didn’t know how much. The thing about travel experiences is that they shift something fundamental in the way you see life. They rewire your thinking and broaden your horizon. I am exceptionally grateful to The Creative Island team for putting this together.

Will I be willing to go on another Creative Island Planned trip? I already have plans to be part of the June Beach Trip.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Adeyinka Seth

    You’re a master of words! This is giving!!! See you in June!

  2. Felix

    Omo, this one choke

  3. Daniella Bassey

    Beautiful piece… I’ll love to visit someday!

    1. Chuks CK

      Thank you! That would be really nice for you to visit. Really nice place.

  4. Kharis

    I’ve always loved the Yoruba Heritage and you showed me why again. Thank you for the beautiful writing.

    1. Chuks CK

      Thank you. I think the Nigerian heritage needs more light. J

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Chuks CK

Chuks Ceekay (CK) is an author, Creative Storyteller and Content Strategist. He is an in-depth researcher with an eye for patterns and systems, building holistic communication perspectives and narratives that drive impact. Chuks is on a unique career journey, allowing him to work and have fun by exploring a lot of contradictory fields that collapse into one big picture. He loves to play lawn tennis or exercise when outside and have meaningful discussions. Indoors, you can find him on his desk reading, writing, and learning. He is the author of Half Past 20, a book that contains a practical guide for young adults navigating adulthood.