Ulli Beier [1922-2011]: a Requiem for African Arts and Culture

Ulli Beier, a German born African arts and culture icon

The demise of the illustrious Arts and Cultural ambassador of Africa nay Nigeria, Herr Ulli Beier  has once again brought to the fore, the versatility and richness of the very much derided African culture.

Ulli Beier was a German born African Arts and Culture aficionado. Together with his Austrian born wife Suzzane Wenger popularly known as Adunni Olorisa  by local adherents, they settled in the south-western part of Nigeria, back in the 1950’s where they fully integrated themselves into the local norms and cultural values of the indigenous  Yoruba people of south-west Nigeria. The fondness of Ulli Beier and his wife for the arts and culture of the Yoruba people could be gleaned from the extensive practical research and studies they conducted on the Yoruba people and their way(s) of life. This extensive research culminated into the investiture of his wife as a custodian of one of the Yoruba traditional deities.

Ulli Beier during his life time in collaboration with Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and others cofounded the Mbari Arts and Writers club together with Mbari Mbayo cultural troupe in Ibadan and Oshogbo in South Western Nigeria respectively back then in the 1960’s, which provided a forum and platform for budding African writers, theatre arts practitioners and other arts and culture buddies to meet and share ideas.

The commitment of Ulli Beier to the development of African arts and culture is instructive given his European background and judging from the hostility of Europeans and others to the fact that an African culture exists which is NOT synonymous with barbarism. The scholarly dimension, which he also brought to bear on his researches on African culture also helped to establish an empirical basis for the existence of African Arts and Culture.

In an age where many young people in Africa and even African scholars are donning the toga of “Afroskepticsm” and “Eurocentrism” , the life and times of Ulli Beier is an eloquent testimony to the fact, that any developmental paradigm that does not take African culture into consideration may not guarantee success.

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