Artist Spotlight

Lukman Alade Fakeye, Nigeria

December 04, 2017 By: Adenike Cosgrove

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born into the Fakeye family of yoruba traditional wood carvers. I belong to the sixth generation of the family, my father is Akinlabi (Akin) Fakeye. Although my family lineage migrated from Ikole Ekiti to Omido and then to Ila Orangun, my father finally settled in Ibadan where I was born. I grew up in and around my father's workshop and studio, watching him everyday as he worked on several masterpieces. I became very close to my father during my childhood and we remained close until he passed in 2012. I learned a lot from him about art and about life.

'Yoruba Olumeye Bowl'
Lukman Alade Fakeye
'Yoruba Olumeye Bowl'
Lukman Alade Fakeye
'Yoruba Olumeye Bowl'
Lukman Alade Fakeye

I studied Art and Design at the Polytechnic of Ibadan in 2001 where I was awarded best student in sculpture. After school, I started life as a studio artist with my father and my brothers Akeem Fakeye, Sulaiman Abiodun Fakeye, and Jimoh Fakeye. In 2011 I travelled to Venezuela through the Edibere Foundation to exhibit the ‘Art of Fakeye Tradition’ in 2014–2016. I left Nigeria for Brazil to teach the techniques of Yoruba traditional woodcarving at various colleges and also toured the ‘Art of Fakeye Tradition’ exhibition across various museums in Rio de Janeiro.

In March 2016 I was selected by the International Wood culture Society (IWCS) to be part of a collaborative team of 19 artists from different parts of the world. I also represented Nigeria at the Annual World Wood Day in Kathmandu, Nepal. I am currently based in Houston, Texas but spend much of my studio time in Nigeria too.

'Yoruba Opon Igede Ifa Bowl'
Lukman Alade Fakeye

How did you discover traditional African art and sculptures?

My father was the first person that introduced me to traditional Nigerian art. I grew up watching him make incredible pieces, some of which are still in my possession today. I spent my childhood playing in my father's workshop and at the same time studying him and my brothers, Sulaiman and Akeem, as they worked. As a child, I didn’t realise that 'watching' and being around carvers all day was part of the learning process for me. The more I stayed and played in the studio, the more I absorbed. I used to play with abandoned tools and wood with some childhood friends and my father used to tell us stories about his grandfather, his father, and other great carvers. All these stories and 'play' inspired me to learn the family tradition.

Back then my uncle Lamidi Fakeye, used to come over to my father's studio. I remember him coming over one day, seeing one of my carvings and being very impressed. He couldn't believe I made the piece until my father told him that yes, I had indeed carved it.

I was also inspired by some of the books on African art in our home. Books like 'Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa' by William Buller Fagg and 'Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Arts and Thought' by Henry Drewal. I fell in love with those books. My family and the books play important roles on how I discovered traditional Yoruba art and sculpture.

From first image:
Lamidi Olonade Fakeye (1928–2009), His Royal Highness Oba Adeyinka Oyekan of Lagos (1911–2003), and a Representative of The United States (U.S.I.S) at the 1971 opening of the "Three Generations of Fakeye" at the USIS Lagos.
Akinlabi (Akin) Fakeye, born in Ila Orangun, Osun state, Nigeria (1936–2012).
Akin Fakeye, son of master carver Adewuyi Oguntunde Fakeye. Akin apprenticed under his brother Lamidi Fakeye from 1958–1967.
Lamidi O. Fakeye, James Adediji Fakeye, Akin Fakeye at Ila Orangun.
Akin Fakeye, Lukman Alade Fakeye's father.

What was it like growing up with Yoruba master carvers?

It was a great great feeling, it was amazing! The knowledge, experiences and, techniques acquired growing up with the Fakeye master carvers can not be taught at any institution.

Looking at the sculptures everyday made me want to create, they made me happy and it was almost as if the pieces were talking to me. All the sculptures I grew up with will forever remain deeply-rooted in my mind. That's why if I see any of my father's pieces anywhere in the world, I can tell you what year he made it. If I see any Fakeye piece, I can tell you who made it. That upbringing is something I will forever cherish.

Can you describe the 'Fakeye style'?

The Fakeye style is very intricate and geometric in form and design. If you look closely at the way we carve faces for example, you'll see the intricate and detailed shape of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

'Yoruba Opon Ifa Divination Board'
Lukman Alade Fakeye

Do you carve as a contemporary artist now or are your sculptures still being used traditionally?

Both. I love traditional forms of art and want to keep it alive because its Africa's identity. I integrate traditional imagery into my work. For example I include Eshu heads/faces in my Ifa divination boards to represent his connectivity to different forces, both benevolent and malevolent. That's why some Eshu images have more than two heads or faces, he stands as witness and intermediary between the diviner and Eledumare. Other animals like lizards, snakes, birds, fish, and goats are all connected to different Yoruba deities. Some of these animals are also required for sacrificial purposes such as èbo or ètutù as required by babalawo diviners.

I love to study designs from old pieces and make them better by adding one or two things to it. Sometimes designs that inspire me come from other African carvers outside Nigeria. Nothing is static, we have to learn from all, young and old, traditional and contemporary.

'Yoruba Ere Ibeji Figures', 2017
Lukman Alade Fakeye
'Yoruba Ere Ibeji Figures', 2017
Lukman Alade Fakeye
'Yoruba Ere Ibeji Figures', 2017
Lukman Alade Fakeye

What has been the reaction from collectors of your work?

Collectors reactions are really great and inspiring, they are extremely happy that the family tradition still exists. Their reactions inspire me to keep moving and growing but more importantly, I'm inspired to keep the tradition alive to make my family and my ancestors proud.

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