Interview with traditional Yoruba carver Lukman Alade Fakeye


Photo of Lukman Alade Fakeye in front of doors carved by his uncle Lamide Olonade Fakeye. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Born into a famous family of West African master carvers, Lukman Alade Fakeye continues the legacy, creating traditional Yoruba wood carvings. His great grandfather’s Epa Society Mask is on view in the new presentation of the BMA’s African Art collection—one of the most important African collections in the United States.

Lukman recently spoke with museum educator Jessica Braiterman about growing up in his father’s studio and the Epa Ceremonial Mask that represents women’s reproductive and spiritual powers during Epa festivals.

JB: How would have the BMA’s Epa Society Mask by your great-grandfather been used?

LAF: It was a ceremonial mask worn during my great grandfather’s life time. When the time for the Epa festival arrives, the mask would be worn by one of the priests to dance and bless people with prayers. The carving of the mother depicted on the mask was used to acknowledge the important role of women in our community and to pay homage to our ancestors. The mask is always kept in a shrine when not in use for the festival and elders bring offerings for the mask and say prayers.

JB: Tell me about your training as a wood carver? When did you begin to learn wood carving and who taught you?

LAF: I spent my childhood playing with my late father, Akin Fakeye, in his workshop and at the same time studying him and my brothers, Sulaiman and Akeem, who were also working in the studio. As a young kid I didn’t realize that this was part of learning process for me. The more I stayed and played in the studio, the more I absorbed. It was like storing information in a computer memory. I used to play in the studio with abandoned tools and wood with some childhood friends and my father used to tell us stories about his grandfather and his father and other great carvers. All the stories he used to tell us inspired me to learn the family tradition.

Photo of Lukman's father Akin Fakeye. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Photo of Lukman’s father Akin Fakeye. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

By the time I was 9-12 years old, I would head to the studio around 6 a.m. to sweep and clean the studio before going to school. After school, I would return to the studio to eat and study my father while carving. That was my daily routine as a young boy and I was determined to learn the family tradition. Over time, my father taught me how to use different kinds of carving tools and many other things about traditional Yoruba wood carving.

Photo of Lukman working in his studio. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Photo of Lukman working in his studio. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

JB: What were some of the hardest things to learn?

LAF: As a beginner every aspect of learning is always hard. During this stage, everything is made by hand, we don’t use machine tools. For me [personally], the hardest thing to learn was to make the base balance on the floor.

JB: What’s it like being part of a prestigious wood carving family? Was there lots of pressure to carry on the family tradition?

LAF: I am very proud to be born into the Fakeye family and be one of the carvers of the Fakeye dynasty. I think there is some pressure to carry on the family tradition, because my brother and I need to take it to the next level and maintain the family legacy and tradition to the fullest.

JB: What piece are you most proud of?

I am very proud of every Fakeye carving, especially my father’s and my uncle Lamidi Fakeye’s work because they are all beautiful masterpieces. A few of my favorites are the 13’ statue of Oduduwa at Obafemi Awolowo University at Ile Ife, Nigeria and the carved doors by my father at the Catholic mission house in Ibadan, Nigeria. As for my work, I am most proud of the 7’ long carved dining table with 6 chairs.

Photo of Lukman's recent hand-carved dining room table and chairs. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Photo of Lukman’s recent hand-carved dining room table and chairs. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.


JB: What are your future aspirations?

LAF: To continue the family legacy and take it to the next level. I want to be able to teach youth and adults around the world about traditional Yoruba wood carving techniques and the Fakeye family history.

I would love to have a Fakeye Museum of Yoruba Art and an institute to teach Yoruba art and the Fakeye dynasty so that the family tradition continues.

The expanded and renovated African galleries debut on Sunday, April 26 during a free day-long celebration, with musical performances, art-making, gallery conversations that highlight the diversity of contemporary and traditional African art, and more. 

Slow Art Day at the BMA

Tomorrow is Slow Art Day, a day that encourages slow, detailed looking at art. You will find that when you spend more time with a work of art, you make discoveries that you would not otherwise experience. My colleague at the BMA Katie Bachler and I came up with some suggestions for exploring art slowly at the museum.

Explore art slowly
Allow yourself to look at only 3-5 works of art during your visit. With those 3-5 works, spend longer time with each work, as if they were old friends you are happy to see, and soak in their energy. As you spend time with each work, allow yourself to notice new details, subtle colors and textures, and even the space around the art.  Being with works of art in this way can be very relaxing. Resist temptations to overthink concepts and ideas and try to spend more time with the sensual qualities in each work of art.

Here are some selected works and some slow ways to enjoy being with them.

American Wing
Find William Picknell’s large painting Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany) in the American Wing. (A Visitor Services Associate can point you to the central gallery on the east side of the Wing.)

William Lamb Picknell. Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany). 1881. Oil on canvas. W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory. BMA2011.44

William Lamb Picknell. Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany). 1881. Oil on canvas. W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory. BMA2011.44

As you look at the painting, take a breath. Breathe in for 4 counts and out for 8 counts. Notice the space around the person and the cool, crisp air. Imagine the sound of the horse trotting and the smell of the wet earth.

Take a second breath. Walk closer. Notice the myriad shades of vivid colors hidden in the brown and grey tones. Take a close up photograph of your favorite hidden colors.

Take a third breath. Just be with the painting. Where does your eye go? Where does your mind go?

European Galleries
Once in this contemplative space, head over to the European galleries. Find the still life by Dutch artist Abraham Mignon, Garland of Fruit and Flowers.

Abraham Mignon. Garland of Fruit and Flowers. Late 1660s. Oil on canvas. Gift of William A. Dickey, Jr. BMA1957.32

Abraham Mignon. Garland of Fruit and Flowers. Late 1660s. Oil on canvas. Gift of William A. Dickey, Jr. BMA1957.32

Notice the fruits and flowers brimming with life as they reach forward, out of the darkness.

Step closer. Imagine hearing the water droplets falling to the ground. Listen closely to hear the fluttering wings of the moths and the sounds of the insects eating away at the foliage.

Take a deep breath. Imagine a time lapse. What will happen in 10 minutes, 11 days, 12 weeks, 13 months, 14 years?

Contemporary Wing
Meander over to the Contemporary Wing. Find the sculpture by John McCracken, Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank).

John McCracken. Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank). 1980. Polyresin and fiberglass on plywood. Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund. BMA1992.6

John McCracken. Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank). 1980. Polyresin and fiberglass on plywood. Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund. BMA1992.6

Breathe in and imagine your body lengthening to the height of the piece.
Breathe out slowly and allow your body to relax. Stand comfortably like this for a little while, taking in the brilliant yellow shaft of sunlight embodied.

Take a few steps to the side of the piece and notice the gentle way it rests against the wall. Take in the subtle grey tones of the shadows that fan softly onto the wall.

Breathe in and step close to the surface of the sculpture. Breathe out and notice your reflection on the surface. Continue observing the surface and notice the space around you also reflected. Stand quietly feeling the space around you and between you and the sculpture.

These are just a few ways that you can explore the BMA slowly. Be sure to sit and relax while at the museum exploring the art. On Slow Art Day, you can also attend our 10 Chairs event. Reflect with 10 scholars on 10 iterations of the humble chair in the BMA’s collection.

Slow Art Day is April 11th, 2015. 10 Chairs is on at the BMA from 2pm-4pm.

A closer look at the BMA Archives

Through a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the BMA Archive is working to provide greater access to some of its most heavily-used collections. As part of my work as the Project Archivist on this grant, I’m processing the Archive’s Photographs Collection: more than 150 boxes (43 linear feet, in archivist-speak) of photographic material documenting exhibitions, events, people, and the BMA grounds from 1923 to the present. The collection provides a rich visual overview of the BMA’s history—and the people and works of art that have shaped the institution.

The BMA’s Archive holds some particular gems, but as with many archival collections, more value can be found in the sum of its parts.

Model of the Waterman house parlor of Warren, Rhode Island, circa 1820, 1943

For example, look at this photograph. At first glance it appears to be a 19th century parlor, or maybe collection of furniture in one of the BMA’s period rooms.

Model of the West Parlor, Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia, 1743-1799, 1943

But looking through other photographs from this exhibition, it quickly becomes apparent that something else is going on here. These images show the intricately decorated interiors of American Rooms in Miniature by Mrs. James Ward Thorne shown at the BMA in 1943.

Other photos demonstrate changes in the BMA’s history over time. The Photographs Collection includes images from many of the Maryland Annual Artist exhibitions throughout the 20th century. Even just a quick glance at the images of the exhibition judges provides an interesting look into the changing tastes and interests of the art world.

Xavier Gonzalez, Concetta Scaravaglione and William Calfee, judges for the Fifteen Annual Maryland Artists exhibition, 1947

Xavier Gonzalez, Concetta Scaravaglione and William Calfee, judges for the Fifteen Annual Maryland Artists exhibition, 1947

Charles Chetham, James Elliott, Richard Tuttle (Kynaston McShine, not pictured), jurors for the 1970 Maryland Annual exhibition, 1970

Charles Chetham, James Elliott, Richard Tuttle (Kynaston McShine, not pictured), jurors for the 1970 Maryland Annual exhibition, 1970

Finding aids for the Photographs Collection, along with the other collections whose processing is generously supported by the NHPRC, are currently being completed. Digital collections and other finding aids can be found on the BMA Archives site.


The American Wing : An Endless Dinner Party

Take a peek at The Baltimore Museum of Art’s newly renovated American Wing with Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and American Painting & Sculpture David Park Curry. In addition to beautiful images of the galleries and one of the finest collections of American Art on the East Coast, you’ll hear the candid perspectives of students from Lakeland Elementary School who tell us that visiting the BMA is “better than staying home and watching TV.”

Improving access to the BMA Archives holdings

This is the second of two posts introducing the BMA Archives. The first post covered what’s in the Archives, and how to find resources and materials.

Men viewing decoration near Museum entrance, The Art of Mary Cassatt exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1941

As you browse through the finding aids for the BMA’s institutional records, you may notice that sometimes there isn’t much information beyond series descriptions.  What if you are researching the work of Mary Cassatt and would like to see photographs of related exhibition installations? You wouldn’t be able to tell from the finding aid that the Archives does have photos of the 1941 exhibition The Art of Mary Cassatt.

Over the past decade, the Archives’ staff—along with volunteers, interns, and Work Study students—has been hard at work improving access to the holdings. This work was given a huge push forward with a 2011 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) that allowed staff to process the entire backlog of nearly 1,000 linear feet of records and create a records management program to manage the flow of material coming to the Archives.  Finding aids are now available for all institutional record groups and manuscripts both on the BMA’s website and via ArchiveGrid.  General descriptions are searchable on WorldCat and the BMA Library’s catalogue.

Baltimore Museum of Art Booth, Baltimore City Fair, 1973

In July of 2014, the BMA received a second grant from the NHPRC that will allow staff to improve upon the work already done and ensure that detailed information is available for the most heavily used materials. The project team will process at either the folder or item level five key collections:

We will also create a plan for the long term digital preservation of material we have already digitized and plan to digitize in the future.

Bianca Hand, Archives Intern, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2014

Summer Internships with the BMA Archives

If you’re a library school student or recent grad, keep an eye on the BMA’s Employment page for information about the summer internship application process. The NHPRC generously provided funding for six interns to assist with the project. Two interns worked with us in fall 2014 and we hope to have more work with us this spring as well as over the summer. Along with the interns, grant-funded Project Archivist Alexanne Brown joined us in January 2015 and will be responsible for processing the majority of the collections listed above.  Alexanne and the rest of the project team are now hard at work processing the Photograph Collection, Audiovisual Collection, and Juried and Invitational Exhibitions Records.  Look for more posts about what we find in the coming months!


A moment of solitude

Kirsten Savage. Museum Solitude. 2015.

Kirsten Savage. Museum Solitude. 2015.

This painting of a familiar-looking museum interior caught our eye on Twitter recently, so we contacted the artist to find out more about it. Kirsten Savage lives in Colorado but grew up in Maryland and received her BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. She told us, “Baltimore is still close to my heart and I have many fond memories of wandering the galleries and special exhibitions at the BMA with my family and friends.”

The sculpture in the painting is Aristide Maillol’s Torso of Summer, 1910-1911 (cast before 1960), from the Alan and Janet Wurtzburger Collection (BMA 1966.55.15). It is currently on view in Antioch Court.

We love seeing how people respond to the BMA. If you’ve been inspired by the collection or the building, let us know! 

Black Box: Sharon Hayes

Sharon Hayes. ‘Ricerche: three’, 2013. Single channel HD video. 38 minutes. Edition of 5 + 1 AP. (HAYES-2013-0089). HD video still. Participants (left to right): Jasmine Brown, Laakan McHardy, Paola Lopez, Anarkalee Perera, Zehra Ali Khan, Sara Amjad. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin

Sharon Hayes. ‘Ricerche: three’, 2013. Single channel HD video. 38 minutes. Edition of 5 + 1 AP. (HAYES-2013-0089). HD video still. Participants (left to right): Jasmine Brown, Laakan McHardy, Paola Lopez, Anarkalee Perera, Zehra Ali Khan, Sara Amjad. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin

Do you think you’ll marry soon? Why did you come to an all-female college? Can you be more sexually free here than politically or intellectually?

Artist Sharon Hayes, acclaimed for her politically charged live performances and video works, asks these and other insightful questions to a group of college-aged women in the mesmerizing piece Ricerche: three, opening on Sunday March 15 in the BMA’s Robert and Ryda H. Levi Gallery.

The 38-minute video, which received a special mention from the Golden Lion award committee at the 2013 Venice Biennale, explores changing perspectives on gender and sexuality through the eyes of 36 students attending Mount Holyoke, an all women’s college in western Massachusetts.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Hayes returned to her hometown this past fall for the first portion of a residency at The Johns Hopkins University. She visits again in early April to continue her meetings with JHU students and to perform a live piece. The artist expects that her time in Baltimore will also inform another installment of what she intends to be an on-going series of works. Titled Ricerche (the Italian word for research or investigation) and inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 film Comizi d’amore (Love Meetings). For that film, Pasolini, like Hayes, acted as both documentarian and interviewer, asking Italians to discuss their attitudes about sex.

This is the BMA’s third collaboration with JHU’s Center for Advanced Media Studies, which brings internationally recognized media artists to Baltimore. This year’s project includes a new partner—JHU’s Museums in Society program, extending the reach of the artist’s topical examination of collegiate sexual identity.

Black Box: Sharon Hayes is on at the BMA from March 15 – October 11, 2015.  It has been curated by Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman and presented in collaboration with The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Media Studies and the Museums in Society program.

Interview with Sharon Hayes at the 55th International Art Exhibition, where she received a special mention from the Golden Lion award committee.

How to Collect Art: Tips for New Collectors


Collectors at the 2012 Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.

The Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair (March 27-29) is a biennial fair that brings printers, publishers, and dealers to Baltimore for one weekend to sell the latest in contemporary prints and multiples. Ranging from emerging to blue chip artists, and from $500 to $50,000, there is something for everybody. The BCPF provides a wonderful opportunity for younger and first-time collectors to add reasonably priced works of art by today’s best makers, and also offers visitors the opportunity to engage directly with the people who worked with the artists to make the prints. Staff from many of the country’s most important print studios will be on hand to tell you about their experiences and help you understand how the prints were made. It’s a not-to-miss event. In addition, to make visitors feel welcome, Museum staff will be on hand to offer guidance throughout the weekend.

If you are a first-time collector, or just looking for a better experience buying art, these tips might help.

The Basics
The International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) defines an original print as a work of art on paper that has been conceived by the artist to be realized as a print, rather than as a reproduction of a work in another medium. There is always a fuzzy line between posters and prints, but suffice it to say, at the BCPF, visitors will be looking at original prints.

While most prints at the BCPF are very recent, the first thing to consider when looking at any potential purchase is condition. Check to make sure the print hasn’t been compromised, meaning it’s not scratched, torn, wrinkled, or too yellowed. You want the paper to be free of marks, creases, and dents.

Technical knowledge
If you like an image but are unfamiliar with the techniques used to realize it, ask the dealer to help you understand better. There are lots of glossaries around that describe printmaking techniques. A handy one can be found on the IFPDA’s website here:

We can’t emphasize enough the value of engaging the vendors in conversation. They are there to help you understand not only the technical aspects of a work of art, but also to help you understand what the artist was thinking; as we say in the department, the “what’s the what”.

Making a purchase
When it comes to making a purchase, please know the deal is between you and the vendor. Negotiating is part of the deal. Don’t be afraid to ask if a discount is available; it can’t hurt to try!

The bottom line on purchasing art is that purchases should not be made based on the speculative future value of the object, but it should be bought because you love it and want to live with it.

Once a purchase has been made, you’ll want to frame the work. There are many good framers in the Baltimore metro area. The museum can recommend several who will treat your purchase well. The quality of the materials the framer uses is important. The bottom line: pay for the best materials you can afford.

Care at home
Bringing your purchase home is always exciting. When considering placement within your home, several factors come into play. When possible, steady climate control is best. Dampness and heat should be avoided in the area where the print is stored, if possible. Be sure to keep your print out of direct sunlight as this can also cause damage to the ink and paper. If your print is unframed, be sure to store it flat to keep the edges from curling and/or tearing.
More information on how to care for your work on paper.

The Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair will be held at the BMA March 28-29, 2015. See the website for full details about exhibitors, and special events. Entry to the event is free for BMA Members. Tickets for non-members are $15 for both days, and $10 for one. Students and teachers with a valid I.D. are free. 


Introduction to the BMA Archives

LS1.2sThe Baltimore Museum of Art, from the south, circa 1940.

Everywhere you look at the BMA, there are connections to history—from the architecture of the John Russell Pope building to the re-creation of Claribel Cone and Etta Cone’s apartments. The Museum’s Archives is reflective of this, with a rich array of materials documenting the history of the BMA, as well as the art collectors and other people who have helped shape it from 1914 to the present. Whether you have a scholarly research question or are just curious about the BMA’s past, helpful resources can be found in the Archives.

What’s in the Archives?
The Archives’ collection comprises approximately 1,400 linear feet or almost four football fields of primary source material such as letters, diaries, meeting minutes, photographs, films, audio recordings, architectural plans, research notes, and financial documents.  These are divided into two distinct parts: institutional records and manuscripts. The former are records of the activities of the Museum’s staff, volunteers, and trustees. For example, the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Department Records include curators’ research for exhibitions, correspondence about purchasing works of art, and logistical documents for the Print Fairs.  Manuscripts, on the other hand, are the personal papers of art collectors and others with a connection to the Museum. Claribel Cone and Etta Cone’s papers include account books listing their purchases while traveling in Europe, letters from Claribel to Etta describing life in Germany during World War I, and photographs of their apartments in Baltimore.


Front room, Claribel Cone’s apartment (8B), Marlborough Apartments, Baltimore, Maryland

How do I find resources and materials?
To learn more about the materials in the Archives, start by reviewing the finding aids, which are easily keyword searchable with your browser’s find function (Ctrl+f). Because of the volume of material inside each box listed in the finding aids (often hundreds of items), you will find general descriptions of categories of materials called series or sub-series—correspondence, financial records, research, etc. When the significance of the materials warrants more information, detailed folder or item descriptions may also be included.

If you spot something that seems helpful to your research, please contact us. You don’t need to be a BMA member to visit the Archives. All researchers are welcome, by appointment, Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.  To make an appointment, call (443) 573-1778 or email       


Letter from Samuel Putnam Avery to George A. Lucas, August 25, 1895