In 1972, Nigerian-born artist Twins Seven-Seven made the first of what would be many visits to Philadelphia before eventually settling here. He was a welcome, authentic presence for black artists who were searching for a deeper understanding of African art and identity. Twins took both exalted traditions and everyday activities as his subjects, developing a linear style that is recognized for its spontaneity and imagination. His impact was felt here and in the Nigerian city of Osogbo, where he refocused attention on the recovery of ancient cultural practices.
Twins Seven-Seven chose his name as an homage to his Yoruba cultural heritage and personal mythology. The multitalented visual artist—who at one time or another was an actor, singer, musician, and dancer—would also go on to become a political leader in Nigeria after learning of his ancestral link to Osuntoki, king of his home city of Ibadan. He understood himself to be the reincarnation of this king, and would eventually become formally recognized for this lineage, meriting the title of “Prince.”
Just as Twins alternated between his Nigeria and Philadelphia homes, his career fluctuated between great success and near failure. In the late 1990s, difficult financial circumstances left him unable to maintain his practice until he was offered work at North Philadelphia’s Material Culture imports retailer as the organization’s first artist-in-residence. By the early 2000s, Twins had reemerged in the art world, but this success too was tragically cut short by his unexpected death during a visit to Nigeria in 2011.