I first learned about Twins Seven Seven’s art in high school in the 90s. I have since been fascinated by the osogbesque* attention to intricate detail exhibited in his works, such as those seen here:
Do you know about the Mbari Mbayo Club? It is a group of artists that came together in Osogbo, and produced works often characterized by their intricacy and use of indigenous indigo dyes. Twins Seven Seven’s work, for one, is extra exciting because it was inspired by Yoruba mythology.
When I go to Lagos, I get a nice art fix at the Nike Center for Art and Culture. Its founder, Chief Mrs Nike Okundaye, keeps the Mbari Mbayo dream alive by training painters, sculptors, bead-makers and textile workers in the Osogbo style. About three thousand artists have passed through this training. Imagine working in an art community where the textiles you need for your collage and the beads you need to highlight a part of your painting are all produced in the same compound. Imagine the exchange. I am really thankful for what she is doing, and I hope to do a more complete post on her work in the near future, maybe even an interview with her.
Twins Seven Seven passed on in June of this year, aged 67. In 2005, he was designated as UNESCO Artist for Peace, for his contribution to the promotion of dialogue and peace. I am writing this post to celebrate his life and works. I hope his art can serve as an inspiration to you to give your creativity a happiness-inspiring yet profound outlet.
– Twins Seven Seven (1944 – 2011), so called because he was the lone survivor of his mother’s seven sets of twins.
– According to 234NEXT, he used to be a street dancer for a medicine seller when he was younger (dude. cool.)
– His works appear in international collections including the Smithsonian Institution and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
– He wore his hair in plaits, like Sango (god of thunder and lighting) who also featured in his works.
– The book Prince Twins Seven Seven is about his life and the role mythology plays in his works. You can buy it here (opens a link to Amazon.com book page).
– Some other members of the Mbari Mbayo Club are Jimoh Buraimoh, Muraina Oyelami, Yinka Adeyemi, Jacob Afolabi, Rufus Ogundele. Look them up! Their art is exciting.
*Osogbesque (pronounced oshogbesk) is a word similar to arabesque. I coined it today, because I don’t know a parallel word to describe the intricate patterning and layering that I see so often in the works of artists working out of Osogbo, like Twins Seven Seven, Nike Okundaye and a whole new generation. I wanted to use the word arabesque, but it referred to a different type of aesthetic, thus a new word was needed. View more osogbesque works here and if you’re planning a trip to Lagos, definitely let me know and we can go see some Osogbesque works at Nike Arts!