American-born ” Olori Tade Adekemi Oyeilumi” is from a lineage of an African American family that discovered the African roots to prevent Yoruba from extinction and promote African customs, traditions, and culture.
In an exclusive interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE, the wife of Oba Oloyotunji speaks about her experience, challenges, lifestyle, and insight into learning the Yoruba language, tradition, and customs.
Below are excerpts:
Can you tell us briefly about how you grew up and your family?
When I was little growing up in the culture here in the USA, it was a growing space. Not as popular, and easy to find now. Spaces where the culture was felt very comfortable as a child. It was an elated feeling of feeling as if you were meant to be somewhere. And so I have a lot of memories of my very, very early childhood of seeing things very traditionally Yoruba and they are very happy memories for me.
Since I grew up already the second generation, it was my parents that got the brunt of sort of explaining to their parents and their family that they were a part of a new culture that has a whole new language, new traditions, and customs. They were like the civil rights movement for the African Diasporas’ movement/ Culture Restoration Movement here in the US.
The Kabiyesi and our story started long before Before Kabiyesi and I were born. After my father returned from the Korean War in 1955, he went straight to New York City to continue to learn and discover his African roots. Oba Efuntola Adefunmi I and my father met in 1955 in Harlem, New York City, and quickly started to work together with a bunch of like minds who were looking to not only discover their culture, traditions, and spirituality but also looking to spread the message to other African Americans in the US. They opened up a temple in 1956 and continue to work together.
In 1969, my father was a part of the caravan of a few who came down from New York City to create and build what we now know as Oyotunji Yoruba African village.
You are an American but promoting African customs, and traditions. Why do you choose Yoruba’s name and language and what do you like about African Culture?
I am an African American promoting African customs, traditions, and culture. But I didn’t choose but it is necessary. I was born the second generation to the African diaspora community here in the US through my Father Chief Adeyemi Oyeilumi an original pioneer of the Ifa culture movement since 1956. My mother Oyafunmike Ogunlano married my father in 1976 and cemented her space in the Yoruba culture. So I was born Iyetade Osunbukola Oyeilumi. As tradition has it I was given my name through Dafa at my naming ceremony just like a traditional Yoruba in Nigeria would get. Since the 1960’s we here in the US have also had the opportunity to be brought up in the culture. The trailblazers who created Oyotunji Yoruba African Village popularized Yoruba here in the USA
What motivated your decision to learn a new language and culture, what was your family’s reaction when you decided to take up African culture and how many languages can you speak fluently?
The family reactions to my parents varied and it varied for a lot of different people whose parents were vanguards. In this culture, you know, some families accepted them and a lot of families did not. Now the popularity of the culture here in the US is more acceptable, and so more people are open and curious as ever before period.
There are about three to four generations of African Diasporas here in North America who were born in the traditional Yoruba culture now. Thanks to the Pioneers of the Culture Restoration Movement here in the USA which started in Harlem New York. These progenitors started Oyotunji Yoruba African Village in South Carolina in 1970. Because of this village, you have second-generation, third-generation, and now fourth-generation children that are growing up learning about the Yoruba tradition. All over the US now it is acceptable to learn about your ancestors and your heritage. There is a big movement of people of African descent learning where their roots come from. And of course, a lot of people’s roots come from Nigeria. And with that, a lot of people are finding their ethnic group, and a lot of people are finding that they are Yoruba. We do have a lot of people around us that speak Yoruba and who are learning Yoruba and are curious about the Yoruba language and traditions, culture, and customs.
Tell us about your journey into the Fashion world, what are the challenges you faced while doing this and how did you overcome them?
I am a fashion designer although I went to school for buying and merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. I’ve always been a designer for my own clothes and have started small lines with my family throughout the years. My line now is My line now is by Osunbukola and it is culturally influenced by women’s resort wear. We are launching our new culture custom clothing line featuring traditional Yoruba fashions., and we work directly with Nigeria. This is a big part of our collective economic development collaborating with each other Diaspora, and Nigeria.
Do you have American friends who speak the Yoruba language or were you able to teach them?
I’m excited for the day I can say that I’m fluent in Yoruba, but I am learning more bit by bit every day more and more. I speak a little Spanish and a little Yoruba, but I couldn’t say I was fluent yet.
Are you a spiritual person and how do you meet with Oba Adefunmi Oloyotunji?
I’m a very spiritual person. I always say I’m a spiritual being first, and I’m here to enjoy my human experience. And so with that, I am not only a Yoruba culturally inclined person and traditionalist but I’m also a Yoruba spiritualist.
The Oba of Yoruba North America
Kabiyesi and I first met were kids in the early 80s as children. We did not really stay in contact much because we were in very different directions. Our families however continued to work together in the Yoruba culture here.
Through connecting by loss and the power of the internet Facebook found us able to speak again in 2013. We reconnected and Kabiyesi ask to marry me. We were married the following year, in September 2014. And we had our daughter Adebisola in another year, in July 2015.
Have you been to Nigeria and Africa and what can you say about NIGERIA?
In 1981 my mother was in Nigeria for the first Yoruba conference. She was there to meet her spiritual Godfather, and become an initiate of Oya. She was also there and able to assist and witness Oba Efuntola Adefunmi I receiving His blessing. When I was little growing up in the culture being able to feel comfortable being yourself is an elated feeling. I have a lot of memories of my very, very early childhood of seeing things very traditionally Yoruba and they are very happy memories for me
Do you wish to tour Nigeria with African Development Magazine to take you around?
I am too excited to be able to go to Nigeria in 2023 for the first time. I’m excited to see the customs up close the traditions, to meet people to hear the way people are.
It’s a great partnership for me to actually travel around with a guide such as an African development magazine and actually document my first time in Africa as an African diaspora culturalist.
I am a bit of a globetrotter. I love traveling. It’s a super passion. I’m very excited to get to the continent of Africa, And the different countries I’ve had some amazing journeys in my travels to various places, but also a lot of my amazing memories just come from growing up living and working and learning about fashion and entertainment in New York City. I have so many stories and beautiful memories about that whole period, which was about at least 15 years that I definitely think there is a book in there. And so hopefully, I can share a bunch of memories with everyone. With that book.
Do you like to cook, what is your favourite meal both foreign and local?
I am really busy Oyeilumi means one of many titles. On special occasions, one of my most loved, favorite dishes is Jamaican-style oxtail. It’s really delicious I also love traditional Ground Nut Stew my Auntie taught me the best recipe, and it is so good! shrimp egusi is also one of my favorites. I love seafood so anything seafood with some fresh vegetables like a fresh farm salad. That can be my meal. I’m very happy about that.
With your vast experience in your brand #WomenDressBoutique #WomensResortwears #WomensTravelGear how have you been able to impact other with training and empowerment?
Our goal with my brand by OsunBukola is to be able to train and empower women, especially in the motherland, and connect them with the diaspora community with artists here. If we can work with production companies and tailors in Africa to produce some of our designs here in the US. We can create an eased cross-economic and cultural connection. We can actually do things bigger than China. One of our goals in visiting Nigeria is not only to see the customs and traditions but also to create a real economic development cross-connection between African American artists and African producers and artists.
What’s your secret?
A woman never tells all of her secrets but I can tell you one of my secrets is I am really close to my elevator ancestors. You know what you put out is what you get back. We’re not perfect but if you govern yourself with positive energy, it tends to create a beautiful life for yourself. Period.
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?
I am a world traveler. I love traveling. It’s one thing I’m super passionate about. And so that’s one of the reasons I’m very excited to get to the continent of Africa as a whole. To go to the different countries and the different cities in Africa and learn a lot more up close and personal myself period. So a lot of amazing memories that I’ve had have been in my journey traveling to some amazing places, but also a lot of my amazing memories just come from growing up living and working and learning about fashion and entertainment in New York City. I have so many stories and beautiful memories about that whole period, which was about at least 16 years. I definitely think there is a book in there. Hopefully, I can share a bunch of memories with everyone. With that book.
What advice would you give the younger ones?
My advice to younger people would be to enjoy where they are, at the moment there’s a lot of time to be an adult. There’s a lot of time to have bills. There’s a lot of time to have babies, there’s a lot of time to have relationships. When you are younger you are meant to explore the world explore your creativity, explore your mind, explore yourself, and learn about yourself. Learn about what makes you tick as much as possible. Before you start taking on too much of everything else. So my advice would be to enjoy yourselves where you are at the time that you are there. And to do your best to create a space where you will create generational wealth, and great health!
I also love to give advice to parents that we shouldn’t put too much pressure on our children at 18. To say that they are adults is an outdated concept.. They are not adults at this point, and science backs up that their brains are not fully developed until 25-28 making them unacceptable of fully rational behaviors. And so if we can change the ideology in our communities, especially here in America, I know over there you all can be more traditional and not necessarily push your child out at 18 years old. By continuing to work with your child at 18 and beyond you are putting you are creating a pretty cool foundation for a solid contribution to society, and generational wealth.