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    The Story Of Oyotunji: A Yoruba (West Africa) Kingdom In United States Of America

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    Oyotunji

    Oyotunji African Village is a village located near Sheldon, Beaufort County, South Carolina that was founded by Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I in 1970. Oyotunji village is named after the Oyo empire, a pre-colonial Yoruba kingdom lasting from the 1300s until the early 1800s in what is now southwestern Nigeria. The name literally means “O̩yo̩ returns” or “O̩yo̩ rises again” or “O̩yo̩ resurrects” referring to the African Yoruba kingdom of Oyo, now rising in a new form near the South Carolina seashore.

    Oyotunji, Adefunmi

    Oyotunji, Adefunmi

    Oyotunji village covers 27 acres (11 ha) and has a Yoruba temple which was moved from Harlem, New York to its present location in 1960. It was originally intended to be located in Savannah, Georgia, but was eventually settled into its current position after disputes with neighbors in Sheldon proper, over drumming and tourists.

    HOW OBA EFUNTOLA ADEFUNMI I FOUNDED OYOTUNJI

    During the slave trade era, many Africans were taken as slaves abroad. While going, some left with their culture and tradition which they continued within the foreign land where they found themselves. They continued with the culture and tradition of their fathers so as to maintain their identity.

    The Yorubas in slavery are among the Africans that maintained their culture in the strange land and it was handed down to their children from generation to generation.

    Many of their children, after the abolition of the slave trade, have married children of their former masters thus having children of mixed blood, that notwithstanding, they still carry on with their African culture in the foreign land since most of them cannot trace their root back to Africa.

    The Yoruba culture has been one of the prominent and most celebrated one throughout the world till date. In the faraway United States of America, there is a Yoruba community named O̩yo̩tunji African Village. It is located near Sheldon, Beaufort County, South Carolina.

    O̩yo̩tunji is regarded as North America’s oldest authentic African village. It was founded in 1970 and is the first intentional community in North America, based on the culture of the Yoruba and Benin tribes of West Africa.

    It has survived 51years of sustaining the Yoruba traditional sociology and values in the diaspora. The village is named after the O̩yo̩ Empire, and the name literally means “O̩yo̩ returns” or “O̩yo̩ rises again” or “O̩yo̩ resurrects”. The village occupies 27 acres of land.

    O̩yo̩tunji was founded by His Royal Highness O̩ba (King) Waja, O̩funto̩la Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I.

    Born Walter Eugene King on October 5, 1928, Oba O̩funto̩la Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, a Detroit native, began studying Afro-Haitian and ancient Egyptian traditions as a teenager. He was further influenced by his contact with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe in New York City at the age of 20, an African American modern dance troupe that drew from many cultures within the African Diaspora.

    Also Read: Five years after, Lagos Inaugurates Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History

    August 26, 1959, O̩ba Waja became the first African born in America to become fully initiated into the Oris̩a-Vodoo African priesthood by African Cubans in Matanzas, Cuba, and became known as Efuntola Osejiman Adefunmi. After his return to the United States, he formed the Yoruba Temple in Harlem in 1960. The temple, committed to preserving African traditions within an American context, was the cultural and religious forerunner of Oyotunji Village.

    He later traveled to Haiti where he discovered more about the Yoruba culture. Armed with a new understanding of the African culture, he found the order of Damballah Hwedo, Ancestor Priests in Harlem New York.

    This marked the beginning of the spread of the Yoruba religion and culture among African-Americans. He later founded the Sàngó Temple in New York and incorporated the African Theological Arch Ministry in 1960. The Sàngó Temple was relocated and renamed the Yoruba Temple.

    With the rise of black nationalism in the 1960s, King began to envision the construction of a separate African American nation that would institutionalize and commemorate ancestral traditions. In June of 1970, he fulfilled this vision with the creation of Oyotunji African Village.

    It was during this time that he also established a new lineage of the priesthood, Orisha Vodoo, to emphasize the tradition’s African roots. Today, over 300 priests have been initiated into this lineage and the African Theological Archministry, founded by Oba O̩funto̩la Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I in 1966, now serves as the umbrella organization for the Village.

    To further his knowledge of Yoruba culture, he traveled to Abeokuta in Nigeria in 1972 where he was initiated into the Ifa priesthood by the Oluwo of Ije̩un at Abeokuta, Ogun state, in August of 1972. He was later proclaimed Alase̩ (Oba-King) of the Yoruba of North America at O̩yo̩tunji Village in 1972.

    In its early years, Oyotunji Village was home to as many as two hundred people. Today, its residential community consists of few African American families, governed by an oba (king) and the community’s appointed council.

    Each family is committed to the teachings of the Yoruba tradition, which include a religious understanding of the world as comprised primarily of the “energies” of the Supreme Being Olodumare, the orisha deities, and the ancestral spirits. This religious world is maintained spiritually through rituals, chants, music, sacrifice, and annual ceremonies.

    Oba Efuntola Osejiman Adefunmi passed away on Thursday, February 10th, 2005 at O̩yo̩tunji African Village in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Since Adefunmi’s death in 2005, the village has been led by his son, the fourteenth of twenty-two children of Oba Efuntola Osejiman Adefunmi, till date.

    The O̩ba title is referred to as “O̩lo̩yotunji” of O̩yo̩tunji.

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    Governor AbdulRazaq reiterates support for tourism, cultural festivals

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    Governor AbdulRazaq reiterates support for tourism, cultural festivals

    The Kwara State Governor, North Central Nigeria, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has pledged the commitment of the state government in the development of the tourism sector through the promotion of sociocultural festivals and monuments in the state.

    He specifically expressed his resolve to partner and support various cultural associations in the state including Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressives Union (IEDPU) to drive and sustain growth in the various sectors.

    The Governor made the pledge when he received the Chairman, Ilorin Emirate Durbar Committee, Engineer Suleiman Yahaya Alapansanpa at the Government House, Ilorin.

    Governor AbdulRazaq said the government will continue to partner with various cultural associations in the state, including the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressives Union (IEDPU), to drive sustainable growth in the sector.

    He added that his administration would increase its support for the 2024 Durbar Festival and other major cultural events in the state.

    The Chairman, Ilorin Emirate Durbar Committee, Engineer Alapasanpa while speaking during the visit, reiterated the kind of support the Emirate enjoyed from the governor and the state government in the previous editions of the festival which culminated in the high level of success recorded in the last celebration.

    The Ilorin Durbar event will hold on Tuesday, the third day of Ileya festival at the Emir’s palace.

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    National Theatre GM Seeks More Investment In Cultural Tourism

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    National Theatre GM Seeks More Investment In Cultural Tourism

    The General Manager, National Arts Theatre, Tola Akerele, has called for more investment in cultural tourism, creative industries, and multicultural education to further leverage Nigeria’s diversity.

    Akerele made the call on Tuesday in Lagos at a World Cultural Day celebration organised by the National Theatre in collaboration with the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP).

    The theme of the programme is “Harnessing Cultural Diversity to foster Unity and drive Economic Growth in Nigeria”.

    “Cultural diversity is not a liability; it’s an asset waiting to be adequately harnessed.

    “By embracing our diversity, we position Nigeria as a global leader – a hub of creativity and ingenuity.”

    She highlighted the creative industry’s significant contribution to Nigeria’s GDP, citing the sector’s impressive figures from 2023.

    “The creative industry, particularly motion picture and music recording, accounted for roughly N154 billion (approximately 197.6 million U.S. dollars) of Nigeria’s GDP in 2023.

    “This figure demonstrates the sector’s vital role in Nigeria’s overall economic landscape,” she said.

    According to Akerele, Nigeria’s cultural wealth is a testament to the resilience, creativity, and ingenuity of its people.

    “We must recognise and celebrate our differences, rather than allowing them to divide us,” she said.

    She emphasised the importance of promoting intercultural dialogue, celebrating Nigeria’s cultural heritage, and exploring ways to harness diversity for economic growth.

    Renowned Playwright and Theatre Director, Ben Tomoloju, highlighted the importance of multiculturalism in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in Nigeria.

    The playwright defined multiculturalism as “the state of a society or the world in which there exists numerous distinct ethnic and cultural groups seen to be politically relevant.”

    Tomoloju urged stakeholders in the cultural industry to explore the potential of Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage and optimise its commercial benefits.

    “I encourage the community of culture producers to take stock of extant manifestations of the Nigerian cultural industry and assess their potential use-value.”

    According to him, the democratisation of culture is essential for widening the space for participation of the people in organised cultural life.

    Tomoloju emphasised Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, with over 370 ethnic groups, each with its own language and cultural peculiarities.

    He acknowledged organisers of the event for their efforts in promoting Nigerian culture.

    He also recognised the National Theatre as a legacy of Nigeria’s most ambitious and globally celebrated cultural event-FESTAC 77.

    Akonitv reports that the event featured a vibrant celebration of Nigerian culture, with performances, exhibitions, and discussions showcasing the country’s rich cultural heritage.

    Guests included dignitaries, cultural icons, and stakeholders from the creative industry.

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    Lagos gears up for Yoruba Week celebration

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    Lagos gears up for Yoruba Week celebration

    The Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Art, and Culture is concluding plans to unveil the grand Yoruba Week celebration, slated for September 2024.

    A statement on Tuesday noted that the event will showcase the cultural heritage of the Yoruba people through traditional music, dance, art exhibitions, and delectable culinary delights.

    “With Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu now the esteemed Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, this year’s Yoruba Week is destined to be a majestic celebration of unity and culture,” the statement said.

    “The Special Adviser on Tourism, Arts, and Culture, Idris Aregbe, will embark on a series of courtesy visits to various stakeholders, Yoruba leaders, grassroots communities, and the younger generation, aiming to foster widespread participation and engagement in this cultural festivity. This will be the biggest cultural event in the Yoruba calendar in years to come,” it added.

    The programme is with the theme, “Embracing the Yoruba Heritage, Unity, and Pride by Preserving Our Past and Inspiring Our Future.”

    In late April, the state government announced plans to dedicate the last week of September every year as “Yoruba Week” to celebrate the Yoruba culture.

    According to a press statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Eromosele Ebhomele, the move is to preserve and promote the rich Yoruba cultural heritage.

    The decision was conveyed to the Lagos State House of Assembly through a letter from the executive arm, following a resolution passed by the lawmakers on September 19, 2023, calling for the activation of Yoruba cultural heritage and the assignment of a special day as Yoruba Day.

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