It’s ‘love at first sight’
Art collector finds inspiration and connection in treasures of African culture and history
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.
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.