16 Mar Jimoh Akolo’s ‘God of Thunder’

It’s interesting how the different layers of an artwork can unfurl over time.

We’ve had the artwork “God of Thunder” by Jimoh Akolo for a couple of months. It’s an interesting artwork done in 1964 in Akolo’s breezy, figurative style. His artworks of that period, while figurative, always seem somewhat restrained, designed to provide enough visual cues for the viewer to enjoy the story but no more. He seemed more intent on the idea than detail.

‘God of thunder’ is an exploration of the Yoruba mythology of Sango, the god of thunder. There’s Sango standing raising his two-sided axe (a constant in the mythology). There are two women kneeling before Sango. It’s a scene that presents the majesty of Sango in a totally different way. Many of the stories about Sango, presented him as a fiery, fearsome warrior. This was the formidable Sango that spewed fire and terrified his enemies.

Akolo’s Sango is different. This Sango is a normal, everyday figure – no bulging biceps or warrior attire. Just a normal everyday man with his two-sided axe.

There’s a reason for this. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, this isn’t really a painting about myths, it’s a painting about justice. The women are not terrified. They are probably two women waiting for justice. Sango was also known for swift and fair justice. The mythology may have extolled strength and fearsomeness. But Akolo’s artwork highlights the other side of the myth. This was also the god of justice – fair, speedy and true. This is as much an artwork about myths as a contemplation of justice and the need for it in our society.

You can see ‘The god of Thunder’ and other artworks in our recent art section.