The Story of Oyotunji, a small Yoruba nation in America
During the slave trade era, many Africans were taken as slave abroad. While going, some left with their culture and tradition which they continued with in the strange 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 faraway United States of America, there is a Yoruba community named Oyotunji African Village. It is located near Sheldon, Beaufort County, South Carolina. Oyotunji 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 Dahomey tribes of West Africa. It has survived 48 years of sustaining the Yoruba traditional sociology and values in the diaspora. The village is named after the Oyo Empire, and the name literally means “Oyo returns” or “Oyo rises again” or “Oyo resurrects”. The village occupies 27 acres of land.
Oyotunji was founded by His Royal Highness Oba (King) Waja, Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, was born Walter Eugene King on October 5, 1928, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. A graduate from Cass Technical High School, Oba Waja’s exposure to African religion began when he became associated with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe at the age of 20. He later travelled 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 NY.
On August 26, 1959, Oba Waja became the first African born in America to become fully initiated into the Orisa-Vodun African priesthood by African Cubans in Matanzas, Cuba. This marked the beginning of the spread of Yoruba religion and culture among African Americans. He later found the Sango Temple in New York and incorporated the African Theological Arch Ministry in 1960. The Sango Temple was relocated and renamed the Yoruba Temple. In 1970, Oba Waja found the Yoruba Village of Oyotunji in Beaufort County, South Carolina, and began the careful re-organisation of the Orisa-Vodu Priesthood along traditional Nigerian lines. To further his knowledge of Yoruba culture, he travelled to Abeokuta in Nigeria in 1972 where he was initiated into the Ifa priesthood by the Oluwa of Ijeun at Abeokuta, Ogun state, in August of 1972. He was later proclaimed Alase (Oba-King) of the Yoruba of North America at Oyotunji Village in 1972.
He passed away on Thursday, February 10th 2005 at Oyotunji African Village in Beaufort County, South Carolina.
And Since Adefunmi’s death in 2005, the village has been led by his son, Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II..till date.
The Oba title is referred to as “Oloyotunji” of Oyotunji.