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The IFE Movement


Over 40 years ago, precisely in 1969, an informal workshop; the Ori-Olokun Workshop started to nurture the artistic talents of the natives of Ife – who naturally displayed remarkable artistic talents. This workshop later metamorphosed into the Fine Arts Department of the University of Ile-Ife, which was established in 1968 (now the Obafemi Awolowo Univeristy).

The Ori-Olokun workshop was derived from the Ori-Olokun figure, who in Yoruba mthology is considered a symbol of unity, art and a tool for cultural rejuvenation and dialogue.

Ori-Olokun art workshop was not limited to visual art; it also permeated the areas of music and theatre counting on support from the likes of Ulli Beier, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Akin Euba, Michael Crowther, Akpabot, Solomon Irein Wangboje, and others. The present Art department of the University of Ile-Ife is not the only that owes its existence to the Ori-Olokun workshop, but such departments as the Music and Drama departments of the university are also offshoots of the defunct Ori-Olokun art workshop.

Owing to the wealth of resources in Ife and the dexterity of the natives, most Ife School artist were trained to utilize resources from their surroundings, this is evinced by the use of terra cotta clay, bronze, granite in original works. Till present, Ife artists still employ many of the same artistic methods as their ancestors.

The Ori-Olokun Worksop has influenced many Nigerian artists – upcoming or renowned – including Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya; (one of the most celebrated Zaria School artists in contemporary Nigerian art and founder of the Annual Harmattan Workshop, Agbarha-Ottor), who revealed that his present repute as an artist derives from his affiliations to different experimental workshops of which Ori-Olokun was one. He claimed that the workshop experience helped him found and launch his Annual Harmattan Workshop at Agbarha-Ottor in Delta State..

Noted beneficiaries of the workshop, amongst many others include Gbade Akintunde, Florence Adeyemi, Segun Adeku, Peter Badejo, Adeniyi Adeyemi, Ademola Williams, Oluwole Olayemi, etc.

The Ife Art School, which is an offset of the Ori-Olokun Experimental Workshop produced many renowned scholars and artists like Dr Kunle Filani, Professor Moyo Okediji, Professor Nzegwu Nkiru, Professor Rom Kalilu, Dr Ronke Adesanya, Dr Bolaji Campbel, Dr Tiri Oladimeji, and Dr Don Akatakpo, Tola Wewe etc. It also provided a fertile ground for the thriving of ”Onaism” – a style known for examining the decorative nature of motifs, ornaments, patterns and designs peculiar to the rich artistic culture of Western Nigeria

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