Susanne Wenger

  • Born 1915 in Graz, Austria
  • Died 2009 in Osogbo, Nigeria

Susanne Wenger is known both for her art and for her commitment to restoring Yoruba shrines in her adopted home of Osogbo, Nigeria. Her career began with studies at the Akademie der Schönen Künste (Academy of Fine Arts), Vienna (1933–37), under Herbert Boeckl (1894–1966). During World War II she remained in Vienna and Graz, joined the resistance, and helped refugees, including the fantastic realist Ernst Fuchs (1930–2015). She also made her first surrealistic drawings during this period. After the war she worked for the communist children’s magazine Unsere Zeitung (Our Newspaper) and co-founded the Vienna Art Club in 1947. In 1946 she traveled to Italy and Switzerland, exhibiting at the Galerie des Eaux Vives (Gallery of Living Waters). In 1949 she met the scholar and author Ulli Beier (1922–2011) in Paris and the two soon married and moved to Nigeria. Wenger converted to Yoruba religion while recovering from a serious illness, and eventually became a Yoruba priestess. She divorced Beier in 1958 and married a local drummer in 1959. Besides restoring a Yoruba shrine to the goddess Osogbo, she built monumental sculptures and made large-scale textiles with a special batik and dye technique. In 1965 Wenger founded the artist group New Sacred Art with Osogbo artists and craftsmen.