Though the great talent that was Bisi Fakeye is no longer around, his vision is still very much with us. Indeed, his death marks the passing of one of Nigeria’s most gifted sculptors.
Hailing from a family of talented wood carvers, he apprenticed under his famous uncle, Lamidi at the family’s hometown in Osun State. Fakeye attended teacher training college, but soon abandoned his teaching for carving. Moving to Lagos in 1968, he interacted with formally trained artists, developed a more commercially based practice, and became a huge part of the Lagos art scene.
Shortly after FESTAC 77, he became a founding member of one of the oldest studio groups in Nigerian visual arts profession, Universal Studios of Art at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.
Over the years, Bisi Fakeye oscillated between traditional and modern sculptural styles and achieved a reputation monumental dimensions. In the last 10 years of his life, he reproduced several of his well-known wood pieces in bronze.
Several of his works have been exhibited and can be found in significant collections all over the world. Others still continue to fetch staggering amounts at domestic and international auctions.
In addition to his sterling qualities as an artist, Fakeye was also blessed with outstanding leadership qualities, which shone when he took over the responsibility and leadership of the National Studios of Art, now Universal Studios of Art.
He was also supportive and a great mentor to young, emerging artists and students, developing their talents and instilling in them professional discipline. Very pious, he was always available to offer a word of prayer and advise.
What was particularly striking about this great titan was his gentle, humane and above all, humble nature. All through his life, he rejected appellations of “leader or director or rector”, but would rather be seen as an apprentice to all.
The Society of Nigerian Artists, the umbrella body for all visual artists in Nigeria, salutes a fallen comrade. He will be solely missed by all those he inspired, touched and loved. We are comforted however, by not only his contributions to the growth of the SNA but also through every masterpiece he created.
Goodbye Baba Olabisi Onawale Fakeye
Rest in Peace!