Ulli Beier was a scholar, writer, cultural icon and a pioneering promoter of modern African art and culture. Ulli was born in Glowitz, Germany, in 1922. His family fled Nazi Germany for Palestine during World War II. In 1950, Ulli moved to Nigeria with his first wife, Susanne Wenger, an artist, to teach at the University College, Ibadan. Among his students were notable writers like Wole Soyinka and late Chinua Achebe.
In 1957, Ulli Beier founded the Black Orpheus magazine which was the first African literary journal in English. In 1962, he co-founded the Mbari Club in Ibadan– a cultural meeting place for intellectuals, artists, writers and dramatists. The following year, he opened as a similar club in Oshogbo- the Mbari Mbayo Centre.
At Oshogbo, Ulli and his second wife, Georgina, ran cultural workshops and helped launch the careers of many major international artists such as Prince Seven-Seven, Muraina Oyelami, Jimoh Buraimoh, Nike Ogundaye etc.
The Beiers left Nigeria in 1966 to teach in Papua, New Guinea. In 1981, Ulli set up the first major African Cultural Centre in Europe named ‘Iwalewa-Haus’ in Bayreuth, Germany. He retired to Australia where he died in 2011 at the age of 88.
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Credit: Bimbola Babarinde; Nigeria Nostalgia Project.
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