An Immersion in Forest  of a Thousand Daemons

Yinka Olatunbosun

The site of the reimagined forest was bedazzling. Right in the centre of the exhibition hall at the Freedom Park, Lagos was a sound installation accentuated by psychedelic lighting. It almost felt like a night at the club, except for the cracking sounds of the forest and the voiceover reading some parts of the classic work that inspired this show, created and curated by culture activist and archivist, Oludamola Adebowale.

That was the memory of the 5th Edition of the “Timeless Memories: Elastic Effects Project” designed to interrogate and celebrate the life and works of Professor Wole Soyinka who clocked 88 this year.

The curator of the show revealed that the show is a continuation of the tradition of creating immersive experience around the history and works of the Nobel Laureate,  Professor Soyinka which has been the major objective of the ‘Timeless Memories Exhibition Project.’

“As regards the Igbo Irumole, I have always wanted to do something around the works of D.O Fagunwa, and this year gave me an opportunity to slightly bring that dream into fulfilment, even though though the main plan was to turn the entire gallery space into a forest,” he explained. “Due to lack of funds, I could not do much, but even with that, I was able to create the immersive experience of the Igbo Irumole with the demons all around. It was such a refreshing experience.”

Using experimental installation, the works interrogate the literary framework of the fantasy for a better understanding of the texts.

With the theme, ‘Connecting the lines between Soyinka and Fagunwa,’ the show turned out to be a celebration of the legacy and works of Chief Daniel Orowole Olorunfemi Fagunwa MBE who wrote the classic Yoruba literature, “Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irumole,” translated into English language by Soyinka with the title A Forest of a Thousand Daemons. The curator eulogised Fagunwa for being a trailblazer in Yoruba literature that is steep in cultural ethos.

“As an author who told stories with a fantastic tilt as far back as the 1930s, he was one of those who documented what can be regarded as fairy tales heavy with elements of Yoruba folklore – spirits, gods, magic, and more. His skilful use of Christian concepts and traditional proverbs mark him as one who had a healthy knowledge of classical Yoruba ethos and spirituality. 

He did all these before the popularity of fantasy and magic realism as sub-genres in literature. This is a master deserving of celebration,” he said.

The show included original illustrations of the “Hunter in the forest of a thousand Daemons: The Hunters Saga” from Professor Bruce Onobrakpeya, who donated  a limited edition of the original illustration and installation of ‘Eru’ to the exhibition.

“I got five works from him. I and my team created an additional 21 works,” Adebowale explained. “This include the 16 contemporary deamons and four  artworks on canvas depicting different scenes from the book.”

No doubt, Soyinka’s version of the book helped in cultural transplant of the version by Fagunwa into the 21st century.

For Adebowale, the exhibition was geared towards creating a way to redefine the way we learn history about our cultural history. 

“This exhibition has provided a bridge to connect people with the works of the icon and along that line of discovery, allows people to explore and see the importance of education and the arts.”

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