It’s ‘love at first sight’

Art col­lec­tor finds in­spi­ra­tion and con­nec­tion in trea­sures of African cul­ture and his­tory

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Audrey Hof­fer

The white liv­ing room in Olu­sanya Ojikutu’s home, with its soar­ing cathe­dral ceil­ing, is a tem­ple to his tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary African art. Sculp­tures book­end the sofa, paint­ings and prints dec­o­rate the walls, and the over­all at­mos­phere is one of beauty, his­toric grandeur and re­pose.

Most of Ojikutu’s sculp­tures are at least a cen­tury old, cre­ated for per­for­mances or rit­u­als. “They served as in­ter­me­di­aries be­tween the lo­cal peo­ple and their an­ces­tors’ spir­its to make their lives bet­ter and pro­tect them from evil forces in this world and beyond,” he said.

Among the dozens of sculp­tures are a metal Kota reli­quary guardian fig­ure from Gabon, a wood Ba­mana Chi Wara head­dress from Mali and a wood-fiber Bwa plank mask from Burk­ina Faso.

“African art has long been seen as a mono­lith, but it re­ally has many dif­fer­ent ori­gins,” said Ojikutu, who is also an artist. “It should be rec­og­nized as more nu­anced and com­ing from the many coun­tries on the con­ti­nent. I try to show that expanse of art forms and vis­ual cul­tures in my col­lec­tion.”

Ojikutu, 50, of Nige­ria, im­mi­grated to the United States in the mid-1990s. He and his wife, Yinka, both work in tech­nol­ogy and live with their two teenage sons in a Wash­ing­ton sub­urb.

These are edited ex­cerpts from the con­ver­sa­tion.

EMMA HOW­ELLS/NEW YORK TIMES PHO­TOS

Olu­sanya Ojikutu, who works in the tech sec­tor and both col­lects and cre­ates art, at home in Bowie, Mary­land.

“No Man Is an Is­land,” by Vic­tor Ehikhameno­r.

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