Testing the name, 2018
11 November 1999
My dear boy,
I was relieved to receive your letter yesterday as I was worried the weather in London was affecting you, knowing how much you detest the cold. It is fortunate Lord Emeka is traveling with you, it helps to have a companion from home, do give him my kind regards.
Concerning your inquiry, I have only this to say: you will do just fine. You may not remember this phrase as it refers to a memory. You were four and we called you "Folu" then due to your unwavering shyness. Every time you were afraid to proceed with anything, you would clutch my coat and look up at me as if to ask for my permission to go forth. I would look down at you, searching the face of a boy searching for my approval and I would smile at you and immediately you would straighten up and proceed. I sensed this same trepidation reading your letter, little Folu still holding strong, why? Have you forgotten you never need ask my permission for anything that may bring you happiness. It goes without saying that I will stand with you regardless of what becomes of you and the life you choose. I know you will be successful because you are my son, an Omodele, this is all that matters. With all my children, I am blessed, each with his and her own story.
To think you might tarnish our family name makes me chuckle—did you forget where you come from? We are a resilient and independent bunch, who aren't encumbered by expectation. Do not concern yourself with such things, they only make you feel small, which betrays your name. You are no longer that uncertain, little boy, you are a man in love as I have been and so many others. Cherish this, my son, and pay no mind anything else that deprives you of joy.
I look forward to your next letter.
Walking into Testing the Name, at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Museum of Art, which was on view from February 20th through September 9th, 2018, you're welcomed by a letter, the exhibition's titular work.
It's a reply from a father to his son's previous letter: Baron Ayotomiwa Omodele, of the House of Obafemi, and his 3rd son, a fresh-out-of-college Temitope, who just came out. What the baron chooses to relay back is a reminder of what their family represents: that his son doesn't need permission to enact his selfhood, and how Temitope's "testing" of the Omodele/Obafemi name, through his confession, changes nothing—most pertinently, the love and pride a father has for his son and family.
I wanted this to be the first thing one sees walking into the exhibition, to set the tone: an act of acceptance from father to son; what that acceptance has brought forth, what it has inspired and helped flourish.
— Toyin Ojih Odutola