In this exclusive interview with Adewale Adenrele, the World renowned Chief Ori Aare Ago Oluwole Ifakunle Adetutu Alagbede of Oyotunji African Village Shares his journey for over 35 years lecturing and teaches Ifa philosophy. his views about the transatlantic slave trade and how to change the narratives, he also spoke about a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, and how he established connections to something meaningful that represents our cultural past among other interesting issues.
Below are excerpts:
Researchers put forward a new narrative explaining the variations in African ancestry in the Americas and how these variations were shaped by the transatlantic trade, how have you and many others changed the narrative for development?
As a Traditional priest/researcher/teacher and a chief of Oyotunji African Village who has been actively involved in changing the narrative regarding variations in African spiritual tradition in America, and around the world, I can say that it has had a profound impact on my understanding of history and development. By putting forward a new narrative that emphasizes the role of the transatlantic trade in shaping these variations, I have been able to challenge and deconstruct existing Eurocentric perspectives that have dominated historical discourse for centuries.
One of the significant ways in which this new narrative has affected development is by highlighting the agency and resilience of African peoples who were forcibly brought to the Americas as slaves. It has helped me shift the focus from a narrative of victimhood to one that I can recognize the active contributions and cultural richness that African populations brought to the world. They could not destroy our humanity. This has had a transformative effect on the perception of African diaspora communities and their role in shaping the social, economic, and cultural fabric of Americans.
Furthermore, my new narrative has led to a re-evaluation of social and economic disparities in America, particularly those experienced by Afro-descendant communities. By acknowledging the historical context and systemic factors of racism, that have perpetuated these inequalities, I see policymakers and development practitioners are more inclined to address them through targeted interventions and policies. This shift in understanding has paved the way for initiatives aimed at promoting social justice, racial equity, and inclusive development.
In addition, changing the narrative has influenced academia, encouraging scholars from diverse backgrounds to engage in research and discourse that explores the complexities of African diaspora history and its implications for contemporary society. It has opened up new avenues for interdisciplinary collaboration and the exchange of ideas, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the African diaspora experience and its lasting effects.
Overall, changing the narrative regarding African ancestry in the Americas and highlighting the influence of the transatlantic trade has had far-reaching implications for development. It has challenged prevailing biases, empowered marginalized communities, informed policy decisions, and fostered a more inclusive and equitable approach to social, economic, and cultural development.
The Yoruba language is spoken in the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic, and parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, therefore constituting one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba is also spoken in Cuba and Brazil. Does it mean that many people have their ancestral back in Nigeria?
Yes, the widespread presence of the Yoruba language in various countries across West Africa and the Americas, such as Nigeria, Benin Republic, Trinidad, parts of Togo, Sierra Leone, Cuba, and Brazil, suggests that there are significant ancestral connections to Nigeria for many people.
The dispersion of the Yoruba language and culture can be traced back to the transatlantic slave trade, which forcibly brought 40 million plus Africans from different regions to the Americas. During this period, Yoruba-speaking individuals were among those who were captured and transported to various parts of the Americas, particularly in regions with significant African diaspora populations.
The retention and preservation of the Yoruba language and cultural practices in Cuba and Brazil, for example, indicate the resilience and tenacity of Yoruba heritage despite the harsh conditions of slavery. These traditions were passed down through generations, forming the foundation of vibrant Afro-descendant communities in these countries.
It is important to note that while many individuals in Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, Brazil and etc. may have Yoruba ancestry, it does not necessarily mean that all Afro-descendant individuals in these countries have direct ancestral ties to Nigeria. Over the centuries, intermixing and cultural exchange with other African ethnic groups and European populations have contributed to the diverse Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean identities present today.
However, the prominence of the Yoruba language and cultural elements in these regions indicates a significant historical and ancestral connection to Nigeria, specifically to the Yoruba ethnic group. The retention of the Yoruba language and cultural practices among Afro-descendant communities in the Americas serves as a testament to the enduring legacy and impact of African heritage on these societies.
The 5th African Spirituality Conference attracts global participation and shows that a lot of people are acquiring knowledge across the world, how have you been advocating and sensitizing people about this?
As an experienced advocate and promoter of African spirituality, I have been actively involved in advocating for and sensitizing people about the significance and relevance of African spirituality in today’s world. I have been engaged in various activities and initiatives to raise awareness and promote the understanding of African spiritual practices and beliefs.
One of the primary ways I have been advocating for African spirituality is through organizing and participating in conferences and seminars. By organizing the 5th African Spirituality Conference, we aimed to create a platform where scholars, practitioners, and enthusiasts from across the globe could come together to share knowledge, insights, and experiences related to African spirituality. This conference attracted global participation, ensuring that diverse perspectives and experiences were represented, and providing an opportunity for people to acquire knowledge about African spirituality from various cultural contexts.
In addition to conferences, I have been actively using various forms of media to advocate for African spirituality. This includes writing articles, publishing books, and maintaining a strong online presence through websites, blogs, and social media platforms. By sharing informative and educational content, I aim to reach a wider audience and create spaces for dialogue and discussion about African spirituality.
Furthermore, I have been involved in community outreach programs and workshops, both locally and internationally, to sensitize people about African spirituality. These initiatives are designed to dispel myths, challenge stereotypes, and provide accurate information about the diverse spiritual practices and beliefs within Africa. By engaging with individuals and communities, I strive to foster understanding, respect, and appreciation for African spirituality.
Lastly, I have been collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations to amplify our advocacy efforts. By joining forces with scholars, activists, artists, and spiritual leaders, we can collectively promote the importance of African spirituality and its relevance in contemporary society. Through collaborations, we can reach larger audiences, engage in research and publication projects, and develop educational materials that help spread knowledge about African spirituality.
Overall, my advocacy and sensitization efforts have been aimed at highlighting the richness, diversity, and significance of African spirituality. By organizing conferences, using various media platforms, engaging in community outreach, and collaborating with others, I strive to promote awareness, understanding, and respect for African spiritual traditions and their contributions to the global spiritual discourse.
There should be a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and tradition through spirituality in purity, with the aim to bring together a wider audience of Orisha devotees, traditional worshipers, and traditional and cultural institutions. Would you support this project, what do you like about African Culture and traditions?
As a practitioner of African spirituality, I wholeheartedly support the idea of a media campaign program that celebrates Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and traditions through spirituality in purity. Such a program has immense potential to bring together a wider audience of Orisa devotees, traditional worshipers, and traditional and cultural institutions, fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of African spirituality.
What I particularly like about African culture and traditions, including those of the Yoruba people, is their rich heritage and deep-rooted spirituality. African culture is characterized by a strong connection to nature, ancestors, and to the divine. It embraces a holistic worldview that recognizes the interdependence and interconnectedness of all beings and the importance of maintaining harmony with the natural world.
The Yoruba religion, with its intricate system of Orisa worship, offers a profound spiritual framework that emphasizes the relationship between humans and the divine forces or deities. I appreciate how Yoruba spirituality provides guidance through divination, rituals, and practices that promote personal growth, community cohesion, and the cultivation of a balanced and harmonious life.
African traditions and customs are also deeply embedded in community values, storytelling, music, dance, and art forms. They reflect a vibrant and diverse cultural tapestry that celebrates the unique identities and contributions of different ethnic groups within Africa. I appreciate the oral traditions that have been passed down through generations, preserving history, wisdom, and cultural knowledge, IFA.
Furthermore, African spirituality and traditions often prioritize communal well-being and social harmony. They promote values such as respect for elders, intergenerational cooperation, and collective responsibility. I find this emphasis on community and interconnectedness to be deeply meaningful and relevant in today’s fragmented and individualistic society.
By celebrating Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and traditions through a media campaign program, we have an opportunity to showcase the beauty, depth, and wisdom of African spirituality to a wider audience. It can serve as a means of cultural preservation, empowerment, and education, fostering pride and self-identity among African descendants and promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation among people from different backgrounds.
Overall, I believe that African culture and traditions, including those of the Yoruba people, hold invaluable wisdom and teachings that can enrich our lives and contribute to a more inclusive and spiritually nourishing world. Supporting initiatives that celebrate and promote African spirituality is a way to honor our ancestors, preserve our heritage, and inspire future generations.
Ooni of Ife, One of the foremost kings in Nigeria was hosted by President Lula, as the country unveiled some initiatives for the reunification of the over 100 million Afro-Brazilians via his program tagged “Back To Home”. How would you describe the visit and the program?
The Ooni of Ife’s trip to Brazil, where he was hosted by President Lula, and the unveiling of the “Back To Home” program for the reunification of over 100 million Afro-Brazilians, is truly a remarkable and wonderful initiative. The Ooni of Ife’s ideas and the program itself hold immense significance and potential for fostering a stronger connection and sense of belonging among Afro-Brazilians to their ancestral homeland in Nigeria. By recognizing and honoring the shared heritage and cultural ties between Nigeria and Brazil, the program aims to address historical and systemic disconnections caused by the transatlantic slave trade. This initiative is wonderful! I think it acknowledges the importance of cultural and ancestral roots in shaping personal and collective identities. It provides Afro-Brazilians with an opportunity to rediscover and embrace their Nigerian heritage, strengthening their sense of pride, self-identity, and belonging. Reconnecting Afro Brazilians, with their homeland, will help them to reclaim their culture, heritage, traditions, their language, and it would help to contribute to their overall growth and development as Africans in the diaspora. The program opens doors for meaningful exchanges. It promotes cultural diplomacy, tourism, and economic opportunities, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation between the two nations.
Furthermore, the “Back To Home” program has the potential to create a ripple effect, inspiring similar initiatives and dialogues across the African diaspora. It highlights the importance of preserving and celebrating African culture, spirituality, and traditions, not only in Brazil but also in other countries where the African diaspora is present like Cuba, Trinidad, and the United States.
Overall, the Ooni of Ife and the “Back To Home” program are remarkable and commendable. It is my hope that it will produce cultural, reconnection, pride, and empowerment among not only Africans. This is a strong step towards healing historical walls, and acknowledging both those who are in the diaspora, as well as those who remained in African borders. This program exemplifies the vision, leadership, and powerful unity that our Ooni is promoting.
As an African American of Nigerian descent, I can share my experience and perspective to motivate other Americans, especially Nigerian Americans, to join in promoting the Yoruba Cultural agenda and contribute to the socio-economic and political emancipation of our people globally. I have festivals for the ancestors and the Orisha. I have appeared on television programs like National Geographic and spoken at some of the top universities here in America and abroad like Harvard, Yale, Florida State, and more.
I emphasize the significance of cultural heritage and the power of reclaiming and celebrating our roots. By engaging in activities that promote the Yoruba Cultural agenda, we can foster a deeper connection to our Nigeria Yoruba heritage. This connection can instill a sense of pride, identity, and belonging, empowering individuals to take an active role in shaping their own narrative and contributing to the development of our communities.
Secondly, I would highlight the importance of unity and solidarity among African-Americans and Nigerian Americans. By coming together and working towards a common goal, we can leverage our collective strength, resources, and networks to effect positive change. By joining forces, we can amplify our voices, advocate for our interests, and create opportunities for economic and political empowerment on both local and global levels.
I emphasize the role of education and knowledge-sharing. By engaging in the Yoruba Cultural agenda, we can deepen our understanding of Nigerian history, culture, traditions, and socio-political dynamics. This knowledge empowers us to challenge stereotypes, dispel misconceptions, and contribute to more nuanced and informed discussions about Africa’s in diaspora.
Additionally, I would highlight the potential for economic opportunities and entrepreneurship that can arise from engaging in the Yoruba Cultural agenda. By promoting Nigerian and Yoruba cultural products, arts, crafts, cuisine, and tourism, we can contribute to economic growth, job creation, and community development. Encouraging Nigerian Americans to explore business ventures, collaborations, and investment opportunities in Nigeria can also strengthen economic ties and foster mutually beneficial relationships.
Lastly, I would emphasize the transformative power of representation and the importance of inspiring future generations. By actively participating in the Yoruba Cultural agenda and promoting our heritage, we become role models and mentors for younger generations. We inspire them to embrace their cultural identities, celebrate diversity, and pursue their dreams with confidence. Our involvement can contribute to a more inclusive and representative society where African-Americans, Nigerian Americans, and other marginalized communities are valued and recognized for their contributions.
In summary, my experience as an African American of Nigerian descent motivates me to encourage other Nigerian Americans and African-Americans to join in promoting the Yoruba Cultural agenda. By highlighting the significance of cultural heritage, unity, education, economic opportunities, and representation, we can inspire others to embrace their roots, contribute to global development, and work towards the socio-economic and political emancipation of our people. Together, we can make a lasting impact and create a brighter future for generations to come.
African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?
I would argue that the question is somewhat unfair because there are numerous aspects of African culture that I deeply appreciate and find joy in as I express my cultural heritage. As members of the diaspora, we often have a strong desire to establish connections to something meaningful that represents our cultural past.
First and foremost, I must mention the vibrant and captivating traditional clothing. The colors used in African attire are truly remarkable, symbolizing royalty, pride, and a profound sense of identity. Wearing these garments allows us to embody a rich heritage, evoking a sense of regality and character that is truly awe-inspiring.
Additionally, the language and idioms within African cultures hold a special place in my heart. They possess a unique ability to convey simple ideas in ways that are deeply profound and thought-provoking. The manner in which these idiomatic expressions are used to articulate one’s thoughts and emotions is truly remarkable, capturing the essence of the African linguistic tradition.
Being a diviner myself, I cannot overlook the significance of the stories, parables, and rituals associated with African divination practices. These narratives and rituals are abundant and teeming with wisdom and cultural richness. They provide profound insights into the mysteries of life, serving as a source of guidance and spiritual nourishment. Engaging with these stories and rituals is both enlightening and enriching, allowing us to connect with our ancestral wisdom and heritage.
In summary, there are countless aspects of African culture that bring me immense joy and pride as I express my cultural heritage. From the splendid colors and designs of traditional clothing to the expressive language and idioms that encapsulate profound ideas, to the abundant and profound stories, parables, and rituals associated with African divination practices, each facet contributes to the tapestry of African cultural richness. Embracing and celebrating these elements allows us to connect with our roots and appreciate the beauty and depth of African culture in all its splendor.
African Development Magazine would like to promote your events, and reporting activities, will you give us this chance?
Thank you for considering African Development Magazine to promote my events and reporting activities. I greatly appreciate the offer and the opportunity to reach a wider audience through your publication.
As an advocate and practitioner of African culture and development, it is important for me to share my work and engage with like-minded individuals and organizations. I believe that collaborating with African Development Magazine would provide a valuable platform to showcase the events I organize and the reporting activities I engage in.
By featuring my events and reporting activities in your magazine, we can raise awareness about the initiatives I am involved in and promote the broader goals of African cultural preservation, empowerment, and development. It would also provide a means to inspire and engage others who share a passion for African culture and development.
I am excited about the prospect of collaborating with African Development Magazine and would be pleased to provide you with the necessary information and materials to highlight my events and reporting activities. Together, we can contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of African culture, spirituality, and its impact on development.
Thank you once again for this opportunity, and I look forward to working with you.
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?
Participating in the African spiritual system has left an indelible memory in my mind—an experience that I consider truly remarkable. It was an honor to serve as an ambassador of IFA/Orisa for Korean peace efforts alongside world leaders of African spirituality and representatives from diverse spiritual traditions across the globe. This particular event stands out as one of the pinnacle moments of my involvement in global peace initiatives.
Through my journey, I have encountered countless stories that have shaped my understanding and deepened my compassion for marginalized communities. While I hold these stories dear, their intricacies and abundance prevent me from sharing them fully within this forum. Instead, I have made the decision to compile my experiences into a book, which will provide a comprehensive account of my perspective at that pivotal point in time. In the future, when the book reaches fruition, I will delve further into my viewpoint and extend the reach of my message.
What advice would you give the younger ones?
First and foremost, our African spiritual traditions are rich in wisdom, ancient knowledge, and profound connections with our ancestors and with forces of nature. These traditions have been passed down through generations, carrying with them the essence of our ancestors’ experiences, struggles, triumphs, and resilience. By engaging in Yoruba spiritual practices, we tap into a powerful source of collective memory and gain insights that can guide us on our personal journeys to fulfilling our destinies.
Participating in African spirituality provides a deep sense of identity and belonging. It connects us to our roots, reminding us of our heritage and the greatness of our ancestors who have shaped our history. It fosters a sense of pride in who we are and where we come from, empowering us to celebrate our cultural uniqueness. Embracing our African spiritual traditions helps us reclaim our narratives and challenge the negative stereotypes that have often been imposed upon us. Moreover, our spiritual practices offer us a profound connection with nature and the universe. African spirituality emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and highlights our responsibility to care for our Mother Earth. By engaging in rituals that honor nature, we deepen our appreciation for the environment and gain a heightened awareness of our role in its preservation. In a time when our planet faces numerous challenges, our spiritual traditions can inspire us to become stewards of the Earth, advocating for sustainable practices and protecting our natural resources.
Preserving our African spiritual traditions is not only important for individual growth but also for the collective well-being of our communities. Our traditions provide a framework for social cohesion, fostering a sense of unity and solidarity among our people. They offer guidance on ethical behavior, justice, and community engagement, promoting values such as respect, compassion, and harmony. By actively participating in our spiritual practices, we contribute to the preservation of our cultural heritage and ensure that future generations have access to the wisdom and teachings that have shaped our identity.
Lastly, by engaging with our African spiritual traditions, we become agents of cultural revival and resilience. In the face of historical marginalization and cultural suppression, our spiritual practices have endured, carrying the flame of our traditions through the ages. By embracing and preserving our culture, we challenge the erasure of our heritage and assert our rightful place in the global tapestry of humanity. Our participation in African spirituality becomes a powerful act of decolonization, reclaiming our birthright and asserting our voices.
Thanks for sharing with us!
You are welcome.
Chief Oluwole Ifakunle is a World renowned traditional chief (Ifa priest) /researcher/teacher with vast knowledge of African culture and tradition. He lectures and teaches Ifa philosophy. He was initiated into the Aboriginal Ogboni Society as Oluwo which is a society elders. Locally he is the head of “Iyadunni” Aborigine￼ Ogboni in New York and he is the head of the “Egbe Parapo” Ancestral EGUNGUN Society of New York and New Jersey.
Ifakunle belongs to several Congolese lineages where he is known as (Tata Nganga) keeper of the secrets of the mysterious underworld. He is an author, a storyteller, a diviner, a magician, a counselor, a chess coach, and a director of ceremonies at the shrine in HARLEM “Ile Omo Ope”. Just to name a few of his chief responsibilities. At his shrine, he has a bi-weekly service focused on spiritual development, mediumship, and reconstruction of an African spiritual mindset. He’s an experienced life coach and clinical hypnotist with over 30 years of counseling experience. He has worked with clients of all ages and various degrees and types of challenges. For the past 20 years, Baba has used his experience and background in public health to assist clinically trained social workers with children, adolescents, and their families. A long-time supporter of training our young people. Baba has shown his passion over the past two decades through his work with two community rites of passage programs. This passion is further evident through the various rites of passage programs he himself has been initiated to.
Chief has worked with organizations such as Harvard University, University of New Castle in London, Hunter College (graduate school of social work), Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and the College of Nyack (graduate school) to mention a few. He believes in both spiritual and cultural diversity. He has sat down with the best of the spiritual world leaders at The United Nations and has traveled to Korea for a world peace summit.
He is educated, exposed, and has traveled far and wide.