Susanne Wenger

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Susanne Wenger

Susanne Wenger.jpg
Native name
Adunni Olorisha
Born4 July 1915
Died12 January 2009 (aged 93)
Oshogbo, Osun, Nigeria
NationalityAustrian (1915 - 2009)
(1959 - 2009)
EducationSchool of Applied Arts in Graz
Alma materAcademy of Fine Arts Vienna
MovementOshogbo school

Chief Susanne Wenger MFR, also known as Adunni Olorisha (c. 1915 – 12 January 2009), was an Austrian-Nigerian artist who resided in Nigeria. Her main focus was the Yoruba culture and she was successful in building an artist cooperative in Osogbo.[1]


Susanne Wenger was born to Swiss and Austrian parents, attended the School of Applied Arts in Graz and the Higher Graphical Federal Education and Research Institute and then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna alongside, among others, Herbert Boeckl[2].

From 1946, Wenger was an employee of the communist children's magazine Unsere Zeitung ("Our Newspaper"), of which the cover of the first edition she designed. In 1947 she co-founded the Vienna Art-Club . After living in Italy and Switzerland in 1949 she went to Paris, where she met her future husband, the linguist Ulli Beier. That same year, after Beier was offered a position as a phoneticist in Ibadan, Nigeria, the couple married in London and emigrated to Nigeria. However, the couple moved from Ibadan to the village of Ede the following year.

Wenger became ill in Nigeria due to tuberculosis[3], after which she turned to Yoruba religion and later became a Yoruba priestess after being healed by a Yoruba herbalist. She became attracted to the religion after meeting one of the priests of the Orisa religion. Wenger and Beier ultimately divorced, with Wenger later marrying local drummer Ayansola Oniru in 1959, by which time Wenger was establishing herself as active in the revival of the religion[4]. She was founder of the archaic-modern art school "New Sacred Art"[5], a branch of the Oshogbo school, and became the guardian of the Sacred Grove of Osun goddess on the banks of the Osun River in Oshogbo[6][7].


The sculptures that were placed there from the late 1950s onwards, sculptures that were created by her followers and local artists have belonged to the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005[6][8].

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

For her efforts on behalf of the Yoruba, she was given a chieftaincy title of the Osogbo community by the king, or Ataoja, of Oshogbo.


On 12 January 2009, Wenger died at the age of 93 in Oshogbo.[1]


  • 1995: Retrospective of the 80th Birthday, Minoritenkirche Stein an der Donau (outside the Old Town of Krems)
  • 2004: On a holy river in Africa, Kunsthalle Krems
  • 2006: Susanne Wenger - life with the gods of Africa, Graz City Museum
  • 2016: Between the Sweet Water and the Swarm of Bees: A Collection of Works by Susanne Wenger, The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta, GA


  1. ^ a b Obituary,, 26 March 2009; accessed 2 April 2017.
  2. ^ Oreva, Duke. "Susanne Wenger: A brief walk in to the life of Adunni Olorisa". Retrieved 2018-08-18.
  3. ^ "The white priestess of 'black magic'". 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2018-08-18.
  4. ^ "Susanne Wenger, un portrait". Retrieved 2018-08-18.
  5. ^ Aragbabalu, Omidiji (18 August 2018). "The art of Suzanne Wenger" (PDF).
  6. ^ a b mondial, UNESCO Centre du patrimoine. "Forêt sacrée d'Osun-Oshogbo". (in French). Retrieved 2018-08-18.
  7. ^ Unknown, Unknown (13 June 2018). "THE MEGA CITY / LIFESuzanne wenger's groove". New Telegraph.
  8. ^ Africa. "Susan Wenger, The White Priestess Of An African Goddess, Passes On!". Retrieved 2018-08-18.