By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
Those who knew the proprietress of Quintessence Art Gallery Ikoyi Lagos, Chief Mrs. Aino Oni Okpaku who died in her home country Sweden on December 26, age 81, are drawing affinities between her and Susanne Wenger (1915 – 2009), the Austrian-Nigerian artist who lived a substantial part of her life in Osogbo and worshipped Orisha, a Yoruba god.
Expert observations, especially arts critics and journalists who had followed the Swedish artist and art collector’s career say she reminds them of Susan Wenger.
Pelu Awofeso at Art Journo, an arts WhatsApp group, wrote: “Wow! So kind hearted. Thinking about her now she reminds one of Susanne Wenger.”
“She had a bit of that vibe,” another art critic, Molara F. Wood, agreed.
Like Susan Wenger who bagged a chieftaincy title in Yoruba land and became Adunni Olorisha, Oni Okpaku was a traditional chief of Ogotun Ekiti, Ekiti State, which she won for her selfless services to rural women during the Better Life for Rural Women programme in the country.
She founded Quintessence with her late husband, Gabriel Oni Okpaku, an architect, in 1975.
Quintessence started at Falomo Shopping Centre, Ikoyi Lagos, as suppliers of high-quality audio, television and hi-fi equipment, accessories and furniture and later expanded into a major gallery for quality literary works, art and crafts by renowned authors and artists, local and foreign.
Oni-Okpaku studied textiles arts from the School of Arts and Crafts, Goteborg, Sweden and later opened her own studio in Stockholm. After doing the business for almost a decade, she travelled to the United States of America for her Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1971.
Around 1973 she came to Nigeria with her late husband. In 1975, she founded Quintessence.