Shyllon’s Sculptural Garden
By Japhet Alakam
TUCKED in Okupe estate in Maryland Lagos is a privately owned Sculptural garden. This property which plays host to a number of local and international visitors annually, is owned by renowned art collector and promoter, Engr. Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon.
The expansive art garden is constructed within the premises of Omooba Yemisi Shyllon Art Foundation, OYASAF, one of the largest privately owned art collection centres in Africa. The beauty of this sculptural garden brings to the fore, the extent to which visual arts and nature preservation can go in enhancing the state of the built environment.
At Shyllon’s garden, the presence of well trimmed plants, arts works done in various media and mounted at different locations and various reptiles that crawl the environment go a long way in bridging the gap between nature and man. It is important to state here that in an environmentally changing world including Nigeria, the example of Yemisi Omooba’s built concept can go a long way in aiding Nigerian developers in formulating policies that enhance healthy living.
LOVE for Sculptural Garden?
My first real contact with gardening was in the University of Ibadan when I was an undergraduate studying Engineering. That time I did my part three project that had to do with land surveying and I was selected to survey the stream that ran across U.I from the second gate down to the botanical garden.
But I didn’t know that there was a botanical garden that time though, I knew that there was a Zoological garden which I patronised a lot . While I was doing my land survey, I stumbled unto it and I was surprised by the beauty of the use of plants in beautifying an environment.
Thereafter, I found out time to visit the garden and that was how the idea of the garden came about. And as a result of that, I made up my mind that whenever I was gong to build my own house that I would make sure that two third of the property must be in the garden.
Introducing Sculptures on my garden
How I came about using sculptures on my garden, that I did not get from U.I because the school did not have public sculptures in the campus. In fact, I was the first to donate a sculptural monument to the school in 2009. But my first contact to what Sculpture can do to a garden was during a visit to a park in Norway.
During the visit I was engrossed with what I saw. So, after that incident I made up my mind that I was going to build a garden that would be full of sculptures, beautiful plants and so on in my compound. Looking at the garden now, I am very proud of it because it is the first major sculptural garden in Nigeria in terms of content and quality, it houses works by many great masters like Enwonwu, Ola Sheko, Olu Amoda etc.
Purpose of Garden
The garden serves as a source of beauty, relaxation, contemplation and pleasure for me, It also serves as a platform for showcasing Nigeria’s cultural heritage and beauty. If you go round the garden, you will see a kind of village setting of what my people do, how they lived their lives, for instance, the story of Mary Selessor, the story of the woman weaving clothes, the man selling kolanut, the kaakaki, the Eyo, the Ekpe masquerade, the Igbo flutist, the Benin dancers etc are all in my garden. It also serves as a way of propagating the positive values of our people, the nation and culture.
Maintaining the garden?
Maintaining a garden is not an easy thing. It is not r recommended to somebody who does not have a passion for it. You have to have the passion because you are going to deprive yourself of many things. To maintain a neat garden with gardeners, buy chemicals, keep the animals, buy drugs for the animals, preserve the artworks by getting experts to make sure that the works are maintained, cleaned and ensure that the grass is always green 365 days of the year requires a lot of money. It is an expensive venture and is not meant for the ordinary man to do.
Choice of works and animals in the Garden?
There are two factors involved in the selection of art works: first, the concept must come from me. Most of the works you find here are my own commissioned art works. I have the concept based on the missing gap in terms of my research on our culture as a people in Nigeria.
And the second factor is the artist. There are some artist I just can’t resist, people like Olu Amoda, Adeola Balogun etc. Many at times when it comes up to some people they tend to more or less agree to my own objective of collection for the garden. Another factor is the material, the materials matter a lot because I disemphasise the purchase of black fibre. We have gone beyond that age so it has to be either in bronze, stone or metal. These are the works you can find in the garden because of longevity and durability.
About the animals, number one, I don’t like dogs, I am not a lover of cats, I am a lover of birds and it was the University of Ibadan that engendered my love for birds and that is why you have the peacocks, , geese, king reed birds and pigeons. The porcupine also interests me a lot, The tortoise, fish, snail are also my kind of animals.