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Oyotunji African Village, 1970-2010

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, greater Cuba, Religion Add comments

Oyotunji African village is turning forty. At the height of the Pan-Africanist movement, Oyotunji was established as a kingdom in 27 acres of South Carolina soil to honor Yoruba traditions.

Oba Ernesto Pichardo has shared with us a historical picture of Oyotunji, In 1978, he initiated a series of trips to the village which culminated in a 1984 ceremony in which the land and the temple were consecrated to Babalú Ayé, an Orisha that was not present  in the village before.

See below an image documenting that first tambor to Babalú Ayé (with Oba Pichardo singing and Oyotunji’s King dancing).

Later in the 1990s, anthropologist Kamari Clarke, then a graduate student at UC-Santa Cruz (now a professor at Yale’s Dept. of Anthropology), conducted ethnographic research there for her doctoral dissertation. Her resulting book, Mapping Yoruba Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities, was published by Duke University Press in 2004.

For a review of recent writings on Yoruba revivalism, you can download here on .pdf Kenneth Routon’s 2006 essay “Trance-Nationalism: Religious Imaginaries in the Black Atlantic” (Journal Identites 13, pp. 1-20).  The article includes a review of Kamari Clarke’s book, as well as James Lorand Matory’s Black Atlantic Religion, and Christine Ayorinde’s Afro-Cuban Religiosity.

© Ernesto Pichardo 1984

5 Responses to “Oyotunji African Village, 1970-2010”

  1. Kevin Says:

    That’s a great photo, complete with evidence of the boombox-as-recording-device used to learn Pichardo’s versions of the song-prayers.

  2. HRM Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi Says:

    This photo is monumental! I was there but was a kid at the time I remember we all (the entire village) had to sleep out doors for a night or two as part of the ritual of our town recieveing Babaluaiye. this is proof that Santero’s and Orisa Voduist have a long and respected history in the USA. Lets stop the fight if there is any between the different Orisa communitues. Adupe ( thank you)

    HRM ObaAdefunmi II

  3. Oba Ernesto Pichardo Says:

    Many blessings and long life Oba Adefunnmi II. It is an honor to read your post! Indeed, we had a family relationship. I recently had a family gathering with a dear friend of ours –your mother. Unfortunately, a small group of Cuban –Yoruba Traditionist in Miami are being very disrespectful. They do not understand our long and respected history. As elder’s and pioneer’s of diaspora Lukumi and Yoruba Traditionalism, we must not allow a few bad apples to ruin the barrel. Our legacy is not for sale. Adupe.

  4. H E. Oloye Aina Olomo Says:

    I am so glad to see this photograph. It brings back memories. It is important to document the history of Yoruba-based theologies and culture in the United States many neophytes don’t know how many people contributed to their ability to “know” about Ifa Orisa today. Thank oba Pinchardo for documenting OUR moment in history.

  5. Yeyefini Efunbolade Says:

    OH How well I remember your commitment work and courage a a time when many in the Lucumi an “Indigenous Africans from Nigeria community frown on our work. I am honored to give even morehistory. It was tthrough my Obatala shrine(Pot) that we initiated the first priest of Obaluaiye. Today many of our community feel that we are not from a Lucumi line and that the new term “Traditionalist” is reserved for those who don’t call on Cuban Ancestors as the foundation of our powerful line of priest from Matanzas Cuba. I give all honor to the Lucumi house we are descended from. Before there were trips to Africa for Ifa initiation WE ALL had our ori’s washed invoking ,ordained and crowned from our Lucumi Ancestral lineage.(Including the late Oba Efuntola Adelabu AdefunmiI Moferefun ati forebale the house of Oshunguaide. Lets remember,study,and dispell the myths.
    Adupe my friend Ernesto Pichardo.

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