At a time when cultural and traditional appreciation among Nigerians is on a decline, a group of African Americans living in faraway South Carolina of the United States of America have found a way to preserve one of Nigeria and Africa’s oldest and most popular culture, The Yoruba culture. Being a foremost magazine that promotes everything African, Face of Africa brings you an up close and personal story of the history and events in the life of the people of Oyotunji community that lives and practices the Yoruba cultural values.
The story of the existence of a community of people in South Carolina that live their daily lives in a typical nature of the Yorubas of the Southwest of Nigeria may come to many as unusual.The truth is, there indeed exists a community of such people in that far away American State with their peculiar strutting about in colourful, flowing robes, celebrating life with songs and music.
The Oyotunji village in South Carolina is named after the Oyo Empire, and the name literally means “Oyo returns” or “Oyo rises again”. The village has a Yoruba temple which was moved from Harlem, New York to its present location in 1960. The village was originally intended to be located in Savannah, Georgia but was eventually settled into its current position after disputes with neighbours in Sheldon, over drumming and tourists ‘disturbances’, according to reports.
The founding father of Oyotunji community, His Royal Highness Oba Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, was born Walter Eugene King on October 5th 1928 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Oba Waja became the first African born in America to become fully initiated into the Orisa-Vodun African priesthood by African Cubans in Matanzas by August 26th 1959. In so doing, Oba Adefunmi I restored the ancient sacred priesthoods of the deities – Esu, Orunmila, Obatala, Osun, Orisa-Vodun, Yemoja, Ogun, Oya, Sango and Olokun – to the African American community.
Since Adefunmi’s death in 2005, the village has been led by his son, Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II. The village was originally constructed to look like the villages of the traditional Yoruba city-states in modern-day Nigeria, although modernization of the village’s public works have been carried out under Adefunmi II.
For more than four decades now, the Yoruba settlement in South Carolina have been practicing and preserving their culture in a home far away from home. Findings has shown that the Oyotunji African Village has evolved over the years expanding their reach and providing community services like the ‘Oyotunji disaster relief,’ across America. Oyotunji now celebrates numerous festivals like the Orita festival every year. There is also a program tagged ‘It takes a village’ that is aimed at sourcing funds for community services.
In a spontaneous but independent agreement with Egbe Isokan Yoruba which has designated the month of July as ‘Yoruba Month’, Oyotunji village also celebrates the rich Yoruba culture during this month with a view to ensuring the continuation of Yoruba tradition. The rest of the year is marked with a variety of activities ranging from conferences on women to elaborate processions in honor of the birthday of the Oba in October.
Moreover, when one feels the need to change his European name to an African name Oyotunji village will gladly be at your service. They will organize mega naming ceremony in your honour! One maybe lucky enough to have the Oba of Oyotunji at his ceremony, wedding or any social gathering. This is because of a chance to ‘book-a-date with the Oba’ the village provides even on their website.
The Oyotunji African Village provides the environment that allows visitors immerse themselves in an authentic African village and culture. Open to the public from 10 am to dusk, seven days a week, visitors can enjoy the view of the village’s monuments and shrines which were built for their gods and ancestors. They can equally visit the marketplace and homes in the village. They can witness the village’s festivities especially the popular festival a for their deities. “It’s the same way they visit other parks to find out what’s happening. People are inquisitive and adventurous. They want to learn.” says Iya Adaramola, wife of a former king of the village in an interview.