Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Susanne Wenger: Artista E Sacerdotessa

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

Susanne Wenger: Artista E Sacerdotessa

Article excerpt

Susanne Wenger: artista e sacerdotessa, by Paola Caboara Luzzatto. Firenze: Atheneum, 2010?. 181 pp. ISBN 978-88-7255-358-9. [Text in Italian and English]. Euro 15,20.

This is the story of the remarkable Austrian born artist and Yoruba cult priestess, Susanne Wenger (1915-2009), presented by her friend Paola Caboara Luzzatto, an art therapist with a doctorate in comparative religion, and herself a resident in Nigeria for ten years. Wenger settled in Nigeria in 1949 and spent most of her life in the small town of Oshogbo, where the sacred groves are now a Unesco World Heritage site.

The book is presented as Wenger's life story as she told it and reflected on it with Luzzatto in the 1970s. It proceeds chronologically through an unhappy childhood and youth in Vienna then Paris. Suzanne went to Africa as the bride of UlIi Beier ("I did not believe in getting married, but I wanted to go to Africa.") as he took up a university appointment at Ibadan. She gives her impressions of expatriate life, illness (tuberculosis) and healing, and the dramatic call by the Yoruba orisa Obatala and the priest Ajagemo, summed up in these words:

Some people say I have converted to a polytheistic religion, to a pagan cult. It would be more correct to say that through the Yoruba myths and rituals I have been able to understand and to express what previously I had experienced in a rather vague and confused way . …

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