The historical antecedent of “Oshogbo” tells the story of a hunter who saved his people from famine and slavery, turned to the river Osun goddess for assistance, and later established a community along the river’s bank that grew into a full town.
Oshogbo has become a landmark centre for the growth of traditional arts and crafts in Yoruba land over the years. The town is well-known for its traditional craft of ‘Adire’ or Tie and Dye, which is why it is also known as ‘Osogbo-Alvaro.’ Because of the unique indigenous methods of production, “Adire” has become the town’s trademark.
Aside from the town’s attractive ‘Tie and Dye,’ many other forms of art and craft can be seen around Oshogbo, including carvings, bead-making, calabash and gourd making, traditional drum making, and not to mention art performers and other forms of traditional entertainment and style.
The Osun River, on the outskirts of town, is the sacred site of the Osun goddess, the goddess of fertility, fashion, style, and healing. Osun was one of the wives of Sango, the Alaafin of Oyo who later hanged himself and became a deity through the worship of his followers.
Historically, the Osun River served as a source of defence and salvation for the Yoruba people of that region during the 18th/19th-century invasion by Fulani/Nupe slave raiders. Susanne Wenger’s arrival at the Sacred Grove was a long-awaited fulfilment of a prophecy, and she rebuilt the entire area of the sacred grove with the help of the traditional priest and local craftsmen in the city.
Nature and the alluring inspiration drawn from the ‘Osun’ river inspired the brilliant, mind-blowing artworks that adorn the grove. The Austrian artist would later be known as “Adunni Olorisha,” a title that reflects her status as an initiate of the Saponna cult as well as a high priestess of the Osun cult.
The Osun-Oshogbo Sacred Grove is one of Africa’s largest undeveloped areas of land. Fishing, farming, and hunting are all prohibited on the 75-hectare sacred land. The sacred forest captures Mother Nature’s majesty in all of her splendour.
This is demonstrated by the rare species of antelopes, monkeys, and other exotic animals seen strutting around the grove, enjoying the occasional visitors who come to see the artistic beauty as well as the traditional splendour of the sacred forest.
The Sacred Forest is one of the few places in the country where intact forestry coexists with strong cultural and traditional values. Susanne Wenger’s brilliant legacy captures the mystery of the Osun-Oshogbo Grove; moreover, the blueprint she created years ago is being carefully preserved by her adopted children and the school of artists she trained.