Several weeks ago I went to the local college to see a carving demonstration by  Lamidi Olonade Fakeye a Nigerian wood carver.  His middle name translates to ” the carver has arrived”    He is 81 years old and has been carving since he was 9.  he is a fifth generation carver.

his demonstrations were only for 45 minutes a day for 4 days, I went for the first three days. The first day I arrived early and met him outside the gallery where his exhibit was on display. We were the only people there so I showed him my necklace of tagua heads and we talked. He looked at my carvings very closely and was curious about the material. Several times he commented that “The faces are all different”.  Then his manager came up and let us into the gallery as I looked at his work I realized all of the figures have the same face. whether it be the mother breast-feeding her baby or the proud warrior with his rifle, they all looked about the same. I learned later that in his culture the people believed that if he carved a likeness of them that they will die. I have heard  that about photography in some cultures but I did not realize the superstition might extend to art also.


The Master Carver at work

He worked mostly with an adze. It was like an extension of his arm, his cuts were so precise and he was able to remove an amazing amount of waste wood with it. He had a selection of chisels too, but they were rarely used.  He mostly works with Mahogany.  The carving to his side in the above image is the one he worked on the first two days. Instead of detailing the first carving, which is what I was looking forward to, he switched over to a new project. Well I can only sit there and watch a guy chuck away at a piece of wood with an adze for so many days. When I realized he wasn’t going to share any detailing secrets with us I did not go back for the final day.

It was clear that the man had developed a tremendous amount of skill over a lifetime of carving. He said that he apprenticed under a carver that he greatly respected, he liked that the master could carve equally well with both hands. When someone expressed surprise that he did not train under his father  He said “my father used to carve for food, I carve for money, I will buy my own food”.   There was a bit of a language barrier but all in all he communicated pretty well.


His carvings are all one piece of wood. There is an amazing amount of detail in them.  He told me how much he charged for some of these pieces. He’s doing quite well for himself. He says he never sketches or plans his carvings beyond just the concept in his head. Thats amazing considering that there is a lot going on in any one of his pieces.  All of his work has a  tooled finish, never sandpaper and he only carves the hardest wood he can find.  Fakeye-exhibit

It would be nice to have a large supply of seasoned mahogany to work with.


Next up, my experimental drying rack.


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