Twins Seven-Seven was born Taiwo Olaniyi Oyewale Aitoyeje in Ogidi Ikumu, Nigeria, in 1944. One of the most multitalented artists from the Oshogbo school, he paints, draws, sculpts, designs textiles and does metalwork. A musician, he has also produced several albums. Today he lives in Oshogbo, is active in local politics and performs with a band.
Twins’ imagination knows no bounds. He fills his works with fantastic creatures, creating a world with ties to Yoruba oral traditions, myths, religion and his own personal experiences. Among his most famous works are a group of etchings he created to illustrate the works of the famous Nigerian writer, Amos Tutuola (1920–1997). Populated with spirits and ghosts, Twins’ etchings perfectly recreate the world of Tutuola’s equally vivid imagination.
Visually, his work resembles Yoruba carvings in the segmentation, division and repetition of his compositions; conceptually, it reflects this influence in the emphasis on transformation and balance, as well as its embodiment of dualities such as the earthly and the spiritual, past and present, industry and agriculture. Early works such as Dreams of the Abiku Child (1967) make allusion to concepts or figures in Yoruba cosmology and mythology, such as the abiku (twin), and the orisha Osun. However, Twins Seven Seven has also described his work as “contemporary Yoruba traditional art,” not only paying homage to the influence of his cultural background but also to noting his responsiveness to current events and the postcolonial experience.
Twins has also developed a technique known as sculpture painting, in which he raises the foreground of a painting to create a low relief. His paintings and prints are densely populated with figures that stand out from the background and move forward towards the viewer. Each image is carefully outlined in ink and subtly uses complementary colors.
He was designated UNESCO Artist for Peace on 25 May 2005 “in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of dialogue and understanding among peoples, particularly in Africa and the African Diaspora”.
Twins Seven Seven died on 16 June 2011 following complications from a stroke.