Nigerian born International wood sculptor Professor emeritus Lamidi Olonade Fakeye will return to Western Michigan University, United States to host a lecture and wood carving demonstration at Sangren Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Born in Nigeria in 1928, Fakeye entered the art world in 1938, when he carved his first sculpture and began his apprenticeship under his father, wood sculptor Akin Fakeye, according to his biography in the “African Voices” section of the Smithsonian Institute’s official Web site.
Fakeye went on to become an apprentice of sculptor George Bamidele Arowoogun, converted to Islam at the age of 14, traveled around the world and eventually earned the reputation of a master wood sculptor.
Traditional family carvings will be showcased by artist, Lamidi Olonade Fakeye from Nigeria in the Kalamazoo Black Arts and Cultural Center at 359 S. Burdick St. during the month of October.
He has put on exhibits all around the world and has gained fans such as actor James Earl Jones, who provided the voice of Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
Fakeye first visited WMU in 1962, when he served as artist-in-residence. In 1966, he became friends with former WMU president James Miller, who, upon his request, gave him a WMU ring that he wears to this day.
Bruce Haight, Ph.D., professor of West African History, first met Fakeye in 1983, when he visited Kalamazoo.
Haight has written a book on Fakeye’s life and works.
“He is either carving something that can be used to glorify God, or it’s used in a secular context,” Haight said, reflecting on Fakeye’s Yoruba cultural heritage and his religious beliefs as a Muslim.
“He [Fakeye] said that any good that came to him came because he worked hard and he tried to do what was good.”
As family tradition dictates, Fakeye’s work includes two signature styles that have been passed down including ears that have pyramid-shaped objects inside them, and eyes that bulge out.
What differentiates Fakeye’s work from that of his kin’s is that he decorates the bases of his work. Fakeye does this because he wants his work to be mobile, as opposed to being permanently installed. Bases of artworks are usually left undecorated because they are buried underground so the sculpture stays in place.
“He’s an amazing, important sculptor,” said Don Desmett, director of the Richmond Center For Visual Arts, who recently hosted an exhibition of Fakeye’s works.
“He has an international reputation that helps with other art shows here.”
Inspired by his travels around the world, Fakeye also attempts to put a sense of motion and dynamism into his sculptures, as opposed to the still and calm effect the sculptures that his teachers and peers have created.
“An apprentice first masters the technique and style of his teacher, and then begins to innovate within the master’s style,” Fakeye is quoted as saying in his biography on the Smithsonian Institute’s official Web site.
“I am a compilation of all my teachers and years of study, from my childhood with family woodcarvers, to the apprenticeship with master George Bamidele Arowoogun, to my travels and study around the world.”
The lecture and wood carving demonstration will take place from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. in room 2302 of Sangren Hall.
Fakeye’s work will be on exhibit at the Kalamazoo Black Arts And Cultural Center throughout the month of October.
“I think if people come on Tuesday…they will just be amazed by what they see him do technically,” Haight said.
“I really encourage people to make it.”