“New Sacred Art” is the name given by Susanne Wenger to the monumental shrines, decorative walls and sculptures located throughout the Sacred Groves. It is a unique contemporary art form influenced by traditional Yoruba art and spirituality.
Most of the works are made of sculpted cement and mud, reinforced with iron rods. Wood sculptures and decorated pillars adorn the monuments; stone metal and cement sculptures are found along the paths.
In late 1958, Susanne was asked by senior traditionalists to rebuild a small Shrine near her house and soon after was invited to continue this work in the Groves. She gathered local craftsmen- carpenters, carvers, bricklayers, blacksmiths and masons who, by observing her artistic work, were drawn to become more creative in their own. Susanne encouraged them but never undertook to teach or train them. The art was inspired by the sanctity of the forest, the river and the Yoruba deities.
The work of more than 4 decades was always guided (and mostly funded) by Susanne, but would have been impossible without the artists of the New Sacred Art Movement. They included Adebisi Akanjii who taught Susanne the technique of cement sculpting and became her invaluable associate, Kasali Akangbe, Rabiu Abesu, Buraimoh Gbadimosi, Saka, Ajebike Ogunyemi, Ojewole Amoos, and Sangodare Ajala, Susanne’s adopted son.
Today, this phenomenal legacy is at risk of disappearing, threatened by the elements and the vibrant forest growth. We are fortunate that some of the original artists survive and, under the leadership of Sangodare Ajala and Adebisi Akanjii, are able to restore this art form to the highest level of artistry and authenticity.