Adunni Olorisha: The Oyibo Woman Who Left Austria to Become an Osun Priestess in Nigeria

The journey into the unforgettable legacy and successes of Susanne Wenger who later became popularly known as Adunni Olorisha in Nigeria cannot be told without looking closely into her background and education.

According to Wikipedia, Susanne Wenger was born in Graz, Austria, the daughter of an English and French high school teacher and a mother born to a high-ranking Austro-Hungarian army officer. She attended the School of Applied Arts in Graz in 1930, specializing in pottery, and later continued her studies at the Higher Graphical Federal Education and Research Institute and then at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

She emerged winner of a poster competition, which earned her a trip to Italy in 1947, and then moved to Paris where she met her husband, Ulli Beier, a linguist.

Ulli Beier had to move to Nigeria to work as a Phoneticist. Since the position was only available to married lecturers, they decided to get married in London and emigrated to Nigeria.

Susan worked as an artist in Nigeria alongside local artists while her husband was a lecturer at the University of Ibadan. They lived together in Ede, Osun state.

Years later, Susanne and her husband got divorced, and she ended up remarrying a local drummer, Lasisi Ayansola Onilu. This saw her become more spiritually tuned to the Yoruba religion particularly because she was healed by the herbal mixtures given to her when fell seriously ill with tuberculosis before she eventually moved from Ede to Osogbo in 1961.

From this point onwards, she began to rebuild many religious carvings within sacred places and was also commissioned by the Osogbo District Council to renovate many of the local shrines, more prominent is the shrine dedicated to the river goodness, Oshun. After she initiated the cult of Obatala, Soponna, and Ogboni, she was given the title of Adunni Olorisha.

Adunni Olorisha’s sculptural works can be found in Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, an area parallel to the Osun River located just outside the city of Osogbo.

Adunni Olorisha played a significant role in ensuring that the Osun grove was declared a national monument and in 2005, it became recognised as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

In 2005, the Nigerian government admitted her as a member of the Order of the Federal Republic.

For her efforts on and interest in the Yoruba, she was awarded a chieftaincy title of the Osogbo community by the king, or Ataoja, of Oshogbo.

Source: Wikipedia

On January 12, 2009, Susan passed on at the age of 93.

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