Prince Twins Seven-Seven (1944-2011)
Born in 1944 in Ijara, Nigeria to a Muslim father and Christian mother, Twins changed his name from Olaniyi Osuntoki to Twins Seven-Seven because he was the sole surviving child of the last of seven sets of twins that his mother had borne. He later added the title Prince to reflect his father’s royal lineage.
Twins was an ‘abiku ’, a child born to die, and his family came to realise their tragic losses were due to the same spirit being born over and over again.
To hold him in this world, Yoruba traditional belief said his mother must dance and beg for alms, but she refused and so young Twins danced to pay off the spiritual debt.
Dancing brought him, aged 20, to the town of Osogbo where he met Ulli and Georgina Beier. The German couple ran an artists’ workshop which provided materials and space for artists to express themselves without a formal teaching structure. Twins had rebelled as a child against the classroom format, but at what came to be known as the Osogbo School he had the freedom to to create his own unique style of expression.
He rejected painting with its European heritage and focused on other media particularly pen and ink using paper, textiles and wood.
Yoruba traditional mythology is at the heart of his artistic creativity, and Prince has described his work as ‘contemporary Yoruba traditional art’, blending old with new and revitalising Yoruba culture in the Nigerian post-colonial environment.
He rapidly achieved international recognition, with works exhibited at MOMA NY, the Pompidou Centre, Paris and National Museum of African Art in Washington amongst many others.
Prince spent fifteen years living in Philadelphia, USA later in life and his work is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art permanent collection.
As well as being a visual artist, he was also a respected musician.
In 2005, he was designated UNESCO Artist For Peace.
He died in Ibadan, Nigeria in 2011.
Prince Twins Seven-Seven, ‘A Dreaming Life’ (2001) edited by Ulli Beier
Glassie H., ‘Price Twins Seven-Seven: His Art, His Life In Nigeria, His Exile In America’ (2010)
Okri B., ‘The Famished Road’ – story concerns an ‘abiku ’ spirit child
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