Posts Tagged ‘Ibadan’

Wednesday was my last day in Ibadan. I had a last meal of amala with my host mom’s delicious ground nut soup. I cried when I said goodbye to my host family. I feel like a real member of the family and it was difficult to leave them. I know we will see again soon. I am in Lagos for now until I leave Nigeria on Tuesday. I will go to Europe for a few weeks and then finally return home to Chicago. For now, I am enjoying the fast-paced life of Lagos and suffering without a car. Èkó ò ní bàjé o!!!

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Ibadan Snapshots

A freshly tarred road leading down from the hill that takes you to Bowers Tower, the highest point in Ibadan.

Bodija, next to the train tracks in Ibadan. Women stand on the side of the road, near the quarry, maybe waiting for public transportation.

Red dusty earth defines the landscape here, even from thousands of feet above you can see the red earth clearly. This is an area for selling roadside market deep in the interior of Ibadan

You can braid hair anywhere. A woman does her hair on the roadside live chicken market.

Carrying loads outside Bodija market.

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This is a correct song. I got a great laugh out of it. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Christmas in Ibadan is pretty boring. I was not able to go to Lagos where the big parties are happening. Hopefully I will still have some fun though. I’m told New Years Eve is the real party here. As my host mom put it, church turns into a Disco hall. I’ll believe that when I see it.

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The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was possibly the calmest it could ever be yesterday morning as my host mom and I squeezed into a taxi bound for Maryland, a neighborhood in Lagos. Eid-el-Kabir, a Muslim holiday has almost entirely immobilized the hustle bustle life in Nigeria for the past two days. The University of Ibadan campus was like a ghost-town and thankfully the usually terrifying highway was calm (well as calm as a highway rife with potholes and crazy drivers can be). Even though I had no idea what I was in for, I begged my mom to take me along to Lagos for a chance to get out of Ibadan. She mentioned a meeting and an art collector. No words can describe how happy I am that I braved the early morning wake up call and public transportation to have experience this

After an hour and a half on the highway and a short okada ride we arrived early at an imposing, vine covered wall and gate.

The front gate to Yemisi Shyllon's compound.

A man peeped his eyes out a small hole to see who we were, my mom explained the reason for the visit and shortly the guard opened the iron door. What we beheld on the other side was a mix between a tropical paradise, mini zoo and a sculpture garden. We could not believe our eyes. My mom and I walked through the stone path passing life size sculptures of African women and men in various working poses. We passed male and female peacocks sauntering around the grassy lawn, in and out of the sculptures.

Female peacocks stroll freely around the garden.

A pen full of white geese with orange beaks and massive tortoises on the right side, my mouth agape with awe and utter shock. We found our way to the office to see the illustrious man who owns the outrageously stunning front yard.

An Andy Warhol style depiction of Wole Soyinka that hangs in Shyllon's office.

In his office we encountered a 60 inch flat screen T.V. on the wall surrounded by stunning pieces of African art–An Andy Warhol style portrait of Wole Soyinka, a 3-foot sculpture of a gold fish with jade eyes from the Philippines, carved wood statues to name a few.

The man of the hour is Prince Yemesi Adedoyin Shyllon, a retired engineer/lawyer, an avid art collector and most recently the founder of the Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation (OYASAF). He is a philanthropic, jet-setting father of three who lives for collecting art.

Shyllon and Layiwola pointing out art pieces in the backyard courtyard.

My host mom, Peju Layiwola is an artist and professor of art at the University of Lagos. She and Shyllon met to discuss the 6-day art workshop she is organizing at UniLag next year that will be sponsored by Shyllon’s art foundation, OYASAF. The scheduled meeting about the workshop’s budget turned out to be an all day affair, including a tour of the art museum that is his house and lots of friendly conversation.

A full size sculpture of a woman pouring water from a calabash is a fountain in his courtyard pool.

Shyllon started collecting art when he was a student at the University of Ibadan in the 1970’s studying engineering. He said he had to store his pieces in his friends dorm rooms as they kept piling up. He went on to become a very successful engineer in Nigeria and never lost his passion for collecting. He custom built the home he lives in now to hold all of his art, which today totals over 6,000 individual pieces.

Shyllon has hundreds of these life-size sculptures. Some are made from bronze, fiberglass or metal.

Six stalls scattered around the compound house all of the paintings and sculptures that do not fit in the house. As Peju put it, the amount of art in his house is a “serious matter.”

The tour started in the kitchen where a vase filled with real peacock feathers from the peacocks in the front yard sits on the counter top. For security reasons Shyllon would not let me take pictures inside the house so I will do my best to do describe the overwhelming amount of art that fills every single room of the house.

Male peacocks mingle with the art works in Shyllon's garden.

His art is literally so plentiful that every single bathroom in the house has at least four paintings on the wall and some even a large sculpture in the corner. His three kids, of which one lives at home, have no choice but to have paintings from prominent Nigerian artists adorn their walls. The Afrolisa hangs prominently in his daughter’s room. Shyllon collects mainly modern contemporary African art from Nigeria.

My host mom, Peju Layiwola and I listening to Shyllon explaining the painting we are standing behind.

He reserves the wall space on the main staircase for foreign pieces, so you can find his small Dali painting there. He has pieces from every well-known Nigerian artist, including a piece of my mom’s in his collection. He does not discriminate between authentic Nigerian art–almost none of which is left in the country–and contemporary Nigerian art. He buys them all, but his first love is sculpture over paintings.

He led us from the kitchen into the dining room from which we had a full view of the first living room. A massive crystal chandelier imported from Dubai cast a yellowy light on the unimaginable amount of wood, bronze, metal statues arranged on the floor.

The newest addition to Shyllon's collection. A sculpture of a person sitting in a chair made with nails.

A 12-foot carving from Lamidi Fakeye with the most intricate depiction of Yoruba orishas stood in the middle, surrounded by tens of tall, short, wide, long wood carvings of orishas from Yoruba traditional religion. Water trickled from the wall in a marble fountain to make the room sound like a rainy season storm.

“Do you spend a lot of time in this room,” I asked Shyllon.
“Let’s see the rest of the house and then you can decide,” he replied.

Up a few steps we passed into the Chinese parlor. Paintings made with tiny beads by artist David H. Dale spanned the walls and complemented the stunning white marble floor, walls and ceiling. This room led to a smaller room paneled in rich wood planks with more wood statues lining the walls.

Another view of his impeccably landscaped garden.

A flat screen TV on the wall felt completely out of place. Shyllon made a point to show us the bathrooms where equally impressive paintings and sculptures hung next to the toilet and the sink. Rooms upon rooms filled with layers of figurine sculptures of Nigerian market women carrying their babies, bronze heads of prominent people in Nigerian society, wood heads of traditional Yoruba gods, paintings of all scenes and sizes followed.

Shyllon and his wife posing with me in the garden.

A narrow path for walking snakes around the sculptures in most of the rooms. All of it is neatly arranged, consciously placed. Shyllons says his most exciting moments are deciding how to fit in a new work, what to take out and what to rearrange. He has 300 pieces in his bedroom alone.

The amount of art Shyllon has in his home is unfathomable; it is shocking and absolutely incredible. He has a personal friendship with all of the living artists displayed in his home. Suzanne Wenger’s handprint hangs framed on the wall.

After the tour we ate pepper soup his wife had prepared for us with a catfish from his own catfish pond. He personally took us around the compound, pointing out interesting facts about certain works. We saw his snail pen (Nigerians consider snails a delicacy.), his Chinese style temple where he attends to guests he does not want to welcome into his house and the playground for younger guests.

The garden that faces Shyllon's house made almost entirely out of marble.

My mom and I left Shyllon’s home elated. She had a very successful meeting and I had an unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience at maybe the most prominent African art collectors’ home. I spoke Yoruba with him of course and signed his guestbook in Yoruba. So with images of art for days in our eyes we once again ventured down the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway back to Ibadan. What a trip.

We were making record time on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and then we encountered this tipped oil truck holding up traffic in Ibadan. The trip went downhill from there.

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Four nights ago, Ibadan experienced a rain storm unlike any I have witnessed in all of the eight countries I have visited in my life. I knew the rain was coming when around 5:45 p.m. the sky started to turn a pastel shade of orange/grey, and a cool wind pulsed through the trees slowly at first then with such a force that it drowned out the sounds of the chickens. A brief serenity before the downpour. I arrived home just in time to no light. (Most of the University of Ibadan campus did not have light for 3 straight days last week.) Not wanting to sit in the darkness reading with my headlamp, the only thing to do seemed to be to lay in my bed and look out the window.

The rain started quickly and torrentially. Sheets of rain descended from the sky and cloaked the view out my window in a stark grey shadow. You couldn’t even see the green in the greenest trees for the rain was so thick. The grey gradually turned to complete black and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. The darkness didn’t last though. Lightning illuminated the world like a strobe light. This lightning did not come in short, flashy bolts. It was continuous and all encompassing. It lit up the sky so completely that it almost looked like daylight. The thunder was a constant rumbling without the piercing cracks. Occasionally a roaring boom and a flash of light would simultaneously occur, stirring the peace from the rain slapping the leaves and dirt. One of the most enjoyable parts of the storm was the cool, dare I say it, cold breeze it brought through my window. The storm went on like this for almost an hour, not letting up one bit. I almost fell asleep a few times but the lighting I could see through my closed eyes kept waking me up.

The rainy season is on its way out, making way for the unimaginable heat of the dry season. During the rainy season you can count on it raining almost everyday usually in the early evening. Not many of the storms are of such caliber, but it is common for me to wake up in the middle of the night to that familiar sound of torrential downpour. The rain brings peace and a much needed cool off to the land here. I made it a priority to bring good rain boots with me only to find that no one wears them here. The few times I’ve worn them, people everywhere stare at me. I just laugh and jaunt through the gigantic, muddy puddles.

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Kettle corn is the only type of popcorn here. Even at the movie theaters, you can only find sweet, sugary kernels, none of the salty, buttery stuff. Movie theaters do not exist in Ibadan. We will have to drive the treacherous Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to see a movie at the closest theater, all the way down in Lagos.

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Photos: Sunsets

A sliver of a moon hangs in the setting sky.

A cloudy October sky at dusk.

Trees in the shadows of the setting sun.

Just a few pictures of what I think are beautiful skies over the University of Ibadan campus somewhere around 6 p.m.

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It’s all happening.

After two months of waiting, deciphering confusing bureaucratic emails and gloating over the fact I would be in Madison–not Nigeria–next year, it turns out the trip is back on! I will be going to Nigeria for fall and spring semester this year. I leave my hometown of Chicago on September 5th for a two-day orientation  in Washington D.C., then ship out for Nigeria the night of September 8th.

I received this news in a quite nonchalant email from the President of American Councils in late July. Before posting the news here (for the whole world to see), I had to make sure it was real so I wouldn’t put everyone, including myself, through another emotional roller coaster…and it’s true.

Essentially what happened is UW decided not to sponsor the program after commissioning an investigation into University of Ibadan which turned out positive. Gary Sandefur, one of the UW Deans overseeing this whole situation, had a letter drafted to send us students in the program saying that the report came out positive and UW would support our study abroad program there. He sent this letter out to other UW staff involved and magically, overnight, the letter turned negative, claiming the report said Ibadan was not safe enough and we could not go under UW auspices. That is the email I received mid-July, to be followed up with a condolence email from UW Chancellor, Biddy Martin. My hopes were crushed at that point. I started preparing for the prospect of being in Madison this fall: finding a place to live, and classes to take. More emails came from high-ups at NSEP and UW. More hope crushing ensued but I never lost determination to figure out how to get there some day.

Two weeks later, an emailed tagged IMPORTANT arrived in my inbox. It was from Dan Davidson, the President of American Councils, the sponsoring organization for the program in Ibadan. It said the trip is back on for fall and spring semester. I read it, closed my computer and went to teach a software class at my summer job. My head was spinning.

As I understand it now, we are back to the original plan of going as a non-UW study abroad program and transferring credit through Bryn Mawr College. The program specifics in Ibadan are the same– we are still doing an internship, taking clases at UI and living with a family. Originally there were 7 of us going, now there are 4. We will miss the three students who won’t be with us. My professors have assured me that the whole experience will only be better now because everyone in Ibadan kept preparing for our arrival, even though the trip was “temporarily” cancelled.

So it looks like all is not lost, in fact much is gained. I will be actively blogging North of Lagos after all. Stay tuned…

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On Friday, June 11–three days before I was supposed to leave for Nigeria–I received devastating news: my summer study abroad program at the University of Ibadan is cancelled. The feelings of shock, denial, sadness and complete disappointment I felt were overwhelming. Abike, another girl in my program told me over the phone as I was driving home from saying goodbye to all of my friends in Madison. I almost had to pull off the road. I felt everything I planned for for semesters slip away in a matter of minutes. Earlier that day I had received an email with a description of the host family I would be meeting a couple days later–Abike’s news did not seem real because we had no answers. Answers did not come until four days later when my Yoruba professor, Antonia Schleicher sent us an e-mail with a semblance of what had been going on behind the scenes.

The major players in the equation that led to the cancellation are the University of Wisconsin and National Security Education Program. NSEP sponsors the Language Flagship, which is the fellowship the seven other students and I have that was (and someday will be) sending us to Nigeria. Like I said in the video, members of NSEP and UW administrators had a meeting on Friday June 11–the same day I received info about my host family–where UW said it would not send any UW students to Ibadan under UW auspices because they felt the situation there is unsafe. There are a few perplexing things about this decision. First, why did they wait until 3 bloody days before to decide? I still don’t have a good answer to that question, but I am investigating. Also, there is the question on why UW had the power to do this. Since May, we knew the year-long program in Nigeria was not a UW sponsored study abroad program because they said they did not have enough time to evaluate it. We were all set to withdraw from UW and go to Nigeria planning to transfer credits from University of Ibadan to Bryn Mawr College, then to UW. The plan was legitimate and UW even said it would work fine. So then why now are they telling us we cannot go because of safety concerns when we would not be insured by UW anyway? NSEP really wants to see this program happen and so they made an agreement with UW that essentially says ‘OK, we’ll cancel the program for now and give you a month to do your investigation into University of Ibadan to determine that it is safe and people live well there.’ So depending on what UW says come July 16 we could be on a plane to Nigeria within a couple weeks or be waiting indefinitely for NSEP to figure out a way to get us there through another university.

I was depressed at first and unable to find happiness. A week later, I am doing much better and my spirits are high. I’ve reckoned that another few months in the U.S. is not all that bad.

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