When I was invited to be a member of the Remember David Oluwale Advisory Committee by Sue Ball, I accepted the request because of my previous involvement in a project dedicated to him in my capacity as an artist, but also because I share the same heritage and culture with Oluwale as a Yoruba descendant.

We are aware of the diabolic treatment that led to the brutal murder of David Oluwale in Leeds in 1969, but we can not dwell on his negative experiences as already indicated during the workshop held in Leeds on 26th June 2012. Hence, in agreement with Rommi Smith who also has a Nigerian heritage, the most important thing is to celebrate Oluwale’s life and the relevance of his experience in 21st century Leeds and Britain in general.

The use of the site temporarily allocated for Remember Oluwale’s project is important because of its close proximity to where he was last seen alive and where his battered body was removed from River Aire in May of 1969. Therefore, in bringing to bear the thoughts that are evoked by being on the site to reflect about his life and to celebrate his spirit:

I pay homage to Olodumare, the almighty creator of the universe. I pay homage to Mother Earth, the final destination of all mortals. I salute the almighty for the gift of water, flowing through the seas and the rivers, giving life to all beings and vegetations and revealing all secrets; water that has no enemy.

From a visual perspective, the feelings generated in relation to the state of the site and Oluwale’s experience and heritage as a Yoruba descendant, moves from the present to the past and from the physical to the metaphysical. The archway that has survived on the land is a landmark which not only gives us an indication that a façade of some sort once graced the land, its position also tells us about the location of the main street when the building was active. The remains of the foundation, the concrete flooring, the heavy looking slaps of stones and left over from the wall of the building, the rusty metals that forms part of the construction of the archway, the tree and the weeds covering different parts of the land, presents us with an energetic atmosphere of convergence; a meeting point where the spirits and the gods come to dance in their elements.

The energy of the water flowing through the canal is a testament to the attributes of the Yoruba water deities – echoing, Osun, Yemoja and Olokun. The arrangement of the slabs on the site triggers the thought of being on a burial site that has been visited by Oya, the Yoruba goddess of the storm and the departed souls and the rusty metal iron conveys the thought of Ogun, the Yoruba god of war and iron and the patron saint of farmers, hunters and blacksmiths in Yoruba mythology. Therefore, in celebrating Oluwale’s life, we must consider the universality of our souls and these elements. Oluwale; God has come home!

Oluseyi Ogunjobi,
Remember Oluwale Advisory Committee