NEWS UPDATE October 2010: Film screening and reception to be held on Oct. 21 to celebrate the life of Lamidi Fakeye, internationally acclaimed African Sculptor. For more information, please see the event flyer or contact Dr. Bruce Haight at (269) 387-5361 or at Bruce.Haight@wmich.edu.
INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED AFRICAN SCULPTOR WITH
CLOSE TIES TO WMU DIES
Lamidi Fakeye, Nigerian sculptor who was named a "Living Treasure" by UNESCO in 2006, came to WMU recently for an exhibition of his work at the Richmond Center in October 2009. His 2009 visit was supported in part by the Burnham-Macmillan Fund of the Department of History . Fakeye then returned to Africa where he died on Christmas Day.
Fakeye first connected to Western Michigan University in Ibadan, Nigeria, where WMU was implementing its Agency for International Development grant from 1960-1968. Fakeye became close friends of Fred and Isabel Beeler, WMU faculty who had been commissioned by Lydia Siedschlag to find authentic African art for WMU to display in Bigelow Hall and around the university. The pieces the Beelers acquired for WMU, many from Fakeye, led to numerous other WMU faculty securing Fakeye's pieces for their private collections. It was the Beelers who coordinated Fakeye's first visit to WMU in the summer of 1963, with personal support from Irving Gilmore. Fakeye then made WMU his "American University" and Kalamazoo his American hometown for the next three decades. Fakeye stayed at the Oaklands with President James Miller and his family on his second trip in 1966, and President Miller commissioned two 5.5' veranda posts that the university displays and has made available for exhibitions. It was then that President Miller approved that Fakeye wear a WMU ring and he has done so with pride ever since.
Fakeye's first major American Retrospective Exhibition occurred at Space Gallery, WMU, in 1987. This show drew heavily on Fakeye pieces from the 1960s that were purchased by WMU and WMU faculty who had been in Nigeria with the AID team. Fakeye has had over a dozen shows of his work at WMU since 1983 with the most recent being at the Richmond Center in October 2009. WMU Professor Bruce Haight of the Department of History worked closely with Fakeye as his coordinator and collaborator from 1983 - 1999. Haight, Fakeye, and WMU's David Curl coauthored Fakeye's 1996 autobiography (see image at left) that is the definitive study of Fakeye's life and career. President Diether Haenicke arranged for WMU to purchase an important door by Fakeye on medical themes that was dedicated at the Sindecuse Health Center in 1998. That door, and other pieces from WMU's collection, then went to the Smithsonian Institution for their 12 month show by Fakeye at the Focus Gallery of the National Museum of Natural History. Fakeye's fame both for exhibitions of his work and for his lecture/demonstrations has also brought Western Michigan University to national and international attention.
Read Dr. Bruce M. Haight's Eulogy for Lamidi Fakeye