On Saturday 17th May 2014, twenty five members of the Nigerian Field Society traveled in a convoy from the quiet Saturday morning streets of Victoria Island to the hustle and bustle of Lagos mainland . Battling Lagos traffic and trying to keep ten vehicles together, was a challenge but the group was filled with anticipation at what we had, all been promised to be a sight like nothing we had ever seen before. How right that turned out to be.
We arrived at Prince Shyllon’s house and we were immediately welcomed into his extensive garden. Despite the oppressive heat we were each able to find a shady spot in which to take refuge whilst we waited for our host’s arrival. Then, a booming voice followed by a beaming smile emanated from the giant man who was so delighted to welcome twenty five strangers, and to invite them to spend a few hours in his world.
After a thorough introduction and explanation of Prince Shyllon’s motivations and visions, as well as a comprehensive overview of the work of his foundation (The Omooba Yemisi Adedoyin Shyllon Art Foundation: OYASAF), we were all aware that we had met a truly unique individual, one who had achieved much in his life, who wanted to achieve so much more and most importantly to share it with others.
Our tour started in the garden. Beautifully designed and maintained with thoughtful and interesting art pieces wherever one laid one’s eyes. Prince Shyllon explained many of the works and at other times remained silent to allow our questions to form, all of which were happily answered. The group gradually made its way around, enjoying the experience but secretly anticipating the main event; the house.
From the moment the front door was opened, the jaws dropped, gasps were heard and the sensory overload began. An art gallery, a museum, a home, a treasure trove, a pirate’s den? How does one describe seven thousand pieces of art displayed in one (albeit very large) home? Simply, one cannot and thus all the participants were left to gaze, inquire, question and marvel at the sights they beheld. The rooms differed in size and layout, some were beautiful, some airless but all were curious and quite literally overflowing with the Prince’s passion.
Prince Shyllon was generous in the extreme with both his time and energy, allowing us to examine, ponder and experience his collection. Then, finally, when we had taken in all we could manage, we were treated to the hospitality of him and his wife with refreshments (small chop and ice cold drinks). This was truly a remarkable afternoon; the entire group saw something unique. Imagine if you can, but of course you can’t. Only by visiting will you understand this writer’s tale. Quite simply, it cannot be described.