Sign In

Adebisi Akanji

(b.1935) Adebisi Akanji, one of the founding members of the New Sacred Art Movement, was born in Nigeria in 1935. Abstract expressionism, a form of painting that dominated the 1950s and gave rise to ideas of spirituality and the sublime, contributed significantly to his career. His humble beginning as a bricklayer, creating decorations for Brazilian baroque-style buildings, made him master his skills, such as building with fire mud bricks, cement blocks, and mud walls coated with cement. These techniques enable him to design architectural screens using cement figures. His creative designs, evidenced by his talent and skill, were encouraged by Ulli Beier in 1962. These contributions made him a well-known Yoruba bricklayer and an acclaimed sculptor. In the 1960s, he collaborated and worked for a decade with Susanne Wenger to repair and restore several sacred groves for Yoruba Orishas. With him being responsible for many of the sculptural elements in the shrine and among the leading lights of the New Sacred Art Movement founded by Susanne Wenger, the Osun shrine in Osogbo, Nigeria, came back to life which later declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Along with other sculptures at the Osun Shrine, he contributed to the Restoration of Iledi Ontotoo, The Chameleon Gate, Iya Moopo, The Marketplace, and the Arch of the Flying Tortoise and Sculpted Walls. Aside from being a sculptor, he is also an accomplished textile artist. His textile works often illustrate themes from Yoruban folklore, and like many artists, his subject matter is a whimsical blend of traditional and contemporary. Curving lines, expressive forms, and size evident in his textiles show his deep interest in his screens.