Spotlight | Visual Artist Adeyemi Adegbesan on creating the Orisha Oya monument for ‘Lovecraft Sanctum: Garden of Eden’

To celebrate the highly anticipated new series 'Lovecraft Country', HBO teamed up with The Mill to develop ‘Lovecraft Country: Sanctum’, a series of exclusive virtual reality events transporting invited guests into a world inspired by the show. For the first event, ‘Garden of Eden’, Artist Adeyemi Adegbesan brought the Orisha Oya (goddess of storms, death and rebirth) monument to life. The towering digital sculpture allowed participants to interact with it by climbing up inside the monument. Visitors were greeted with the message “You are your Ancestors’ Dream”, before taking a thrilling leap back to the ground — demonstrating the kind of primal rush that virtual reality can bring to the comfort of your own home. After the event, The Mill’s Associate Creative Director Sally Reynolds caught up with Adeyemi on creating this piece of art for the Sanctum experience.
Thought October 14, 2020

Talk us through how this project came to life?

When I started working on this project I hadn’t seen the show yet so I was just working off of the synopsis that was sent to me, but the mood and energy that I got made me think of the Orisha Oya immediately. So it was really cool to see Oya referenced in the show once I started watching it. I started working on a 2 dimensional illustration and just drew up some rotation drawing to show it from various angles and then the team at The Mill was able to translate that into a 3d model for the VR space.


You thoughtfully crafted this unique piece for the show; what inspirations did you draw on?

My goal was just to create something that paid tribute to Yoruba tradition but that would also resonate with African American traditions and I just thought that paying tribute to an Orisha made sense since it is one of the most popular traditions in West Africa but it can also be found in the Santeria tradition throughout the Americas so it just felt like a really good fit given the subject matter of the show.

How much did you know about the world of Lovecraft Country?

Honestly it was all new to me when I started this project. I wasn’t familiar with the book by Matt Ruff, or the Lovecraft legacy. So it’s been really interesting getting into the history of it. It’s obviously a complicated legacy but it’s been dope watching the show and seeing how it navigates all of these layers. 


We had the privilege of translating your work into a whole new platform. How was that process for you?

It was really awesome seeing this thing come to life. It was a first for me to be able to experience an idea like that in a VR space. It’s such a wide open frontier in general and it aligns perfectly with Afrofuturism which is a big theme in my work so I’m really happy we had the chance to work on this. 


What was it like to walk around the head of your own work of art?

It was pretty wild. I hadn’t really ever considered my work on that scale before. And even though it was virtual, it still kind of opened up some new pathways and new ideas in my brain I think so, that was a really cool added benefit. 


Lovecraft Country the series takes place in the 50s,while the social VR experience places us in the future. How do past, present and future emerge in your art? 

For me, I love the concept of time as a flat plane rather than a linear track. I feel like we have the ability to access ancient technology through our DNA which brings guidance and knowledge to our present day selves. I also think that projecting mentally into the future and envisioning new realities can have a very powerful effect on our present day realities. So although we can’t physically travel through time, I like to think that we can sort of mentally access these different points in time and use that wisdom to transform reality in the present moment. That kind of time fluidity is a central component in the work I make since my subjects are meant to kind of exist in a timeless state firmly anchored in ancestral tradition but also completely tuned in to a futuristic state.

Who are some of your greatest influences & inspirations?

I’m really inspired by music so, artists like Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae influence my work a lot. I’m also really into sports so I draw a lot of inspiration from athletes like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as well just in terms of dedication and pursuit of a vision


What else are you focused on for 2020?

Honestly, 2020 has been such a trip. I’m very grateful to be healthy and safe. So I’m really just trying to be there for my community and hold space. I’m also just in the studio working on new things. There’s too much uncertainty right now for me to really want to plan any new physical installations or exhibitions but I’m just making sure that when stuff starts to go back to normal I’ll be ready to go


Read more about the ‘Lovecraft Country: Sanctum’ Virtual Events hereYou can view Lovecraft Sanctum via YouTube Live during the following date and time:

Event #3: Music of the Cosmos

Monday, October 19

10:00 PM ET/ 7:00 PM PT


You can view more of Adeyemi’s work on his website or over on his instagram page @yung.yemi.