Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yoruba People - Rediscovering Self

Reemergence & appreciation of traditional Yoruba Cultural Art Aesthetics’ is under way in many parts of Yoruba land. The first great comeback likely began 45+ years ago in Osogbo because of the efforts of the Austrian Suzanne Wenger – Adunni, with the artisans’ community she helped establish and build which aided many Yoruba traditional artist to recognize and build a new appreciation for Yoruba art aesthetics in the many forms of artistry.
Ms Wenger was also the instigator of establishing the Osun Sacred Grove as a National Park, preserving it from the onslaught of christians and muslims to take the land and build churchs and mosques, now the land is preserved and protected.
Also one cannot forget the great accomplishments and immense contributions of Prof. Wande Abimbola and Dr Wole Soyinka in literature among other things. In the ‘70’s Ifayemi Elebu-ibon following his mentor the late great Duro Ladipo as a master in the artistry of theatre integrating Ifa as dramatic arts, Oloye Ifayemi followed with the popular Nigerian TV series Ifa-Olokun Asorodayo.

Of recent, another great rediscovery is well underway in Republic of Benin and closely followed in Oyo, Oyo State, Nigeria because of the recognition by UNESCO in both Gelede (’01) and Ifa (’05), as intangible world heritages, (see more at www.)
The centre established in Sabe, Rep. of Benin, one of the central places of Gelede, which originated in the Egba areas of what is now Nigeria & Rep. of Benin, several border towns claim its origin but history may place the origin in present day Ketu which according to my own research I believe to be correct. Other regions of Egbado people where Gelede is well rooted include Alara, Abeokuta, Ijio, Iwoye, Iseyin, Sakete and others, but ese Ifa clearly state Gelede is of Egbado origins or they were the Yoruba sub-group that up held the practice once its importance was established.

I was recently in attendance (check back to my website for pictures at both institutes, these buildings were built with the generous funds coming from Japan, to establish and preserve the indigenous Yoruba knowledge on ground in these important places, before this knowledge disappears.
Japan believes that if we can “preserve and research the ancient wisdom of Ifa and find the philosophical similarities with our own ancient knowledge, we will have a much clearer picture of the beginnings of humanity on this earth”, which is a very correct assumption.

The events held recently in Sabe in the north of Republic of Benin, and the planned launch of the Ifa Institute in Oyo, headed by Prof. Abimbola in early 2008, has created a much needed fury of attention and interest in the ancient traditions of the Yoruba people by the local communities, long overdue.
it ‘sometimes takes a neighbor to look into your own backyard and recognize you have a rare species of plant that ought to be cherished, you may have just regarded such as an ordinary shrub’ Yoruba saying.

While visiting I had many discussions and meetings with elders and youth alike in Sabe about the matter of Gelede and other traditional ideology of Ifa, and was amazed at both the honest lack of knowledge and the renewed interest this UNESCO project has created with recognizing Gelede in Rep. of Benin.
As more international attention is attracted to these grassroots initiatives it will help the local communities to grow a renewed appreciation of their own indigenous knowledge and the contributions of ancient Yoruba sciences to global society.

The youth in Sabe have now come to identify that bush in their own backyard before it dries and disappears, and I am sure the same is underway in Oyo town.

Writing while still visiting Nigeria,
Check my website in the weeks to come for updated pictures and other commentary on my recent travels to Nigeria, Rep. of Benin, Togo and Cameroon also expect new Ekofa Podcast to come soon

Awoyinfa Ifaloju