Prince Twins Seven Seven in Bavaria
By Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo
Internationally renowned Nigerian artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven
Twins Seven Seven comes from Nigeria and was born in 1944. He is one of the most well known contemporary African artists. Not only that. He is also a musician, dancer, teacher, proprietor, politician, general practitioner and the father of more than fifty children from his 13 wives, and a lot more. He began his career with the Oshogbo Artists Group, at the time described as the “young savages” of Africa. Since 1960 he has had exhibitions in Europe, Japan, Australia and in the United States of America where he won international acknowledgement. His works are exhibited in and acquired by different great museums of the world. Among these are Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphis Museum of Art and the National Modern Gallery in Lagos. In 2005 the UNESCO honoured him with the Artist For Peace Award, "in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of dialogue and understanding among peoples, particularly in Africa and the African Diaspora”.
“Renano goddess” (wood sculpture, price on request)
a rich technique: “The long neck spirits of the earth” (sculpture painting, 3900 Euros)
His technique is richly variable and his works mirror his multifacetted media, passionate personality and the ifluence of the rites and rituals of the Yoruba culture. With his cross-boundary loaded phantasmagoria, symbolic motives and filigree ornaments, he manages to create a universe of humans, animals, deities, Gods and plants. Most of his later works are dedicated to social and political themes with a critical eye on the Nigerian politics. Between 17 June to 27 July 2007, Twins Seven Seven’s work is exhibited in the
Galerie in der Promenade in the Bavarian city of Fürth. Most of the pieces are from the private collection of a local gynaecologist, Dr Klein-Kung, who has known him for decades and began buying Twins Seven Seven’s work since the late 1960s. This collection is now offered for sale at the gallery, with prices ranging from 600 Euros to nearly 22000 (twenty-two thousand) Euros per piece. There are drawings, paintings on wood and on canvas, sculptures, paintings on paper and 3D painted sculptures with mythological, social and erotic scenes from his country.
in political exile in the 1970s and 1980s, the artist “lost” his mythological style until returning back to Nigeria
A 2004 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association describes him thus:
He is an artist like no other: painter, draftsman, sculptor, printmaker, metal worker, textile designer; he is also a musician: singer, dancer, bandleader, drummer. He is a writer, a poet. And he has acting credits. His official name is Prince Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale-Toyeje Oyekale Osuntoki, but he chooses to be known by the simpler, distinctive
construction of Twins Seven Seven. Descended from a Nigerian chieftain, Twins Seven Seven (1944- ) was born in Ibadan to a leather worker father and cloth weaver mother; his mother was also a trader in women’s jewelry and clothing. When he was eight years old his father died and he moved with his mother to her ancestral village in the province of Kabba. At age 16 he left school and began the journey that would take him and his art around the world.
The first stop was Lagos, where he became a driver-apprentice, but after two years he went to Oshogbo, where he joined the experimental art workshop of two German artists, Ulli Beier and Suzanne Wenger. Because of the workshop, Oshogbo had become something of a tourist attraction; Twins Seven Seven was soon the center of that attraction.
Twins Seven Seven’s (Ibeji Meje Meje) name alludes to the fact that he was the only survivor in a family that had had seven sets of twins (ibeji meje). "Taiwo" in his original name indicates that he was the first-born twin of the set. (The second born of each pair is called "Kehinde"; though younger, Kehinde is charged with taking care of Taiwo.) If either, Taiwo or Kehinde, died—as was frequently the case—the spirit of the dead twin was embodied in a wooden carving, ere ibeji, and the surviving twin was responsible for caring for it for as long as it lived. Twins Seven Seven, as the sole surviving member of 14 babies, had an especially heavy duty in caring for the spirits of all his deceased siblings.
Twins Seven Seven completed Healing of Abiku Children when he was in his late twenties. It had been commissioned a year earlier by the Indianapolis physician Dr Hanus Grosz under the general rubric of "Healing." The painting is a depiction of a religious ceremony of the Yoruba people that Twins Seven Seven knew from his own experience. According to Yoruba belief, abiku is a child who is fated to die not long
after birth. Rebirth into the same family occurs, but this is followed by early death once again. The cycle continues until the mother brings the child to a divination priest, who, by means of special rituals and incantations to the spirits, persuades the child spirit to remain with its community. In Healing of Abiku Children such a mother is clearly identified. The largest single figure in the painting, she sits on an ornate stool in the foreground holding a twin in her lap, while another sleeps on her back. At her feet are tiny pictures of twins, and in an upward diagonal pointing left, a line of numerous other, seemingly paired children, representing perhaps her previous twin children. Framed in a doorway is the priest mixing potions, while behind him are throngs of people, villagers perhaps come to watch the ceremony. To the right are women arriving with supplies. Throughout the painting are other figures engaged in various other tasks, lavishly decorated structures, elaborate clothing, and, in the upper background, birds, representing perhaps spirits. Not a millimeter of space is left undecorated.
“The tortoise that wanted to be a human being” (canvas, 1800 Euros)
„The Healing of Abiku Children“
One need not know the narrative or symbolism behind the work to enjoy the painting, however. Like all his work, Healing of Abiku Children is exuberant, flamboyant, attention-grabbing, as Twins Seven Seven is himself said to be. The work is big and bold, busy as a marketplace, lush as an autumn forest; it is as complex as human relationships, as richly layered and as elaborately textured as the finest arras tapestry. The colors are warm and comforting, richly burnished, like sun on copper. And they are loud, as attention-getting as the blast of the trumpet on judgment day.
Now considered the most famous representative of the Nigerian Oshogbo school of painting, Twins Seven Seven’s work is in museums throughout the world. The exhibition at the Galerie in der Promenade was a colourful presentation with “extras” including drummers (Akwaaba Group from Cameroon & Ivory Coast), dancers (Ghana & Ivory Coast) and food (Malian). The most enchanting dancers wearing the traditional Kente and
plenty of „Ashanti Gold“ were Jenny Marie-Madlaine, 5 and her sister Millaine Akuya, 3 years old (see below).
“Me Imam” (sculpture painting, 2400 Euros)
“Ritual dance” (sculpture painting, 4600 Euros)
“The long neck spirits of the ocean” (sculpture painting, 22,000 Euros)
“Coming to the world of Abomy” (canvas, 2700 Euros)
“Dentist” (canvas, 2700 Euros)
“Twins Seven Seven’s Secret Sex House” (wood sculpture painting, price on request)
…and if you peep inside the Secret Sex House, you will see much of …
…this kind of “Karmasutra”
“Hunter’s dream” (sculture painting, 3900 Euros)
Maya Temple Princesses? No, the enchantresses are Milaine Akuya (3, front) and her older sister Jenny Marie-Madelaine (5, behind)
whirling in „Ashanti gold“ from head to ankles: Jenny & Milaine Kouadia
Millaine Akuya and sister Jenny Marie-Madelaine crowned & bedecked in “Ashanti gold”
Happy Mummy Yvonne Manzau Kouadio the mother, choreographic assistant, costume designer and jeweller of her daughters Jenny and Millaine “The two are our most precious jewels!” she beams.
Daddy of the enchantresses: Manzau Kouadio Drummer, Singer & Entertainer, dancing and whirling with a (symbolic) machete and a whisk before Twins’ “Secret Sex House”. His princesses Jenny Marie-Madelaine & Millaine Akuya surely got the rhythm from him, their adored Daddy! “My two little precious daughters are my dearest Yvonne and me. That’s we together! God’s wonderful gift to us and to my whole family, wherever they are in the whole world!”
Aye, aye, Manzau! And the guests to the opening ceremony of the Twins Seven Seven exhibition did enjoy themselves and their Malian buffet, as the photos below confirm.