Yoruba Cultural Heritage Knowledge and Development Initiative







Bust of a female queen known by her title of Yemoo…. She was reagent of Ita Yemoo and wife of Obatala
Old Ile Ife was a confederation of many city states each with its ruler before the arrival of Oduduwa…. some of the city states were Ido, Ideta, Oko, Iloran, Iloromu, Ijugbe, Imojubi, Iraye, Iwinrin, Idun and , Oke Oja…… major occupation was farming….. The administrators had their titles…. Obalejugbe for example was the district head of Ijugbe…
By far, the most powerful of them was Obatala…. The Ideta province that he ruled was also the largest….. another of the smaller provinces was ruled by his wife…. He was recognized as a powerful chief priest and other hamlets recognized him as a defato provincial ruler of all Ife anytime there was a need for them to unite for a common cause (Very much like the structure of the confederate nation states of old Borgu).
When Oduduwa arrived…. The leader that was most formidable against him was Obatala… Contrary to many versions that claimed Oduduwa was welcomed with open arms because of the earlier prophecy of the oracle, Obatala refused to acknowledge him as ruler of Ife and this led to a civil war with the provincial rulers taking sides… some stood with Oduduwa because of the prophecy that he was destined to unite Ife while others like Obawinni remained loyal to Obatala who was the most powerful leader in the city states before the arrival of Oduduwa… with the help of Obameri, Oduduwa defeated Obatala and placed him under house arrest at Ideta….. it was after this that Oduduwa consolidated the city states and ruled as first monarch of centralized Ife….. He also married an influential woman to further consolidate his hold… Ebolokun who held the title of Olokun…..
Although legends of Oduduwa usually elevates him to the status of progenitor of the people of Karo Ojire… The city states of Ife existed before his arrival and had its provincial rulers….. To his real credit was not the foundation of Ife but the consolidation of it into a central government and expansion to the cardinals of the regions from the Niger river to the coasts of the Atlantic.
Like many mortals of the time, Obatala was elevated to the status of an Orisha…. many natives of Ife till today acknowledge him as the legitimate ruler of Ife…. A shrine with priests exists in Ife today in his honor. The official color of Obatala is white and he represents purity in Yoruba cosmology…..
He is also recognized as an Orisha in South America and the Carribeans…. A giant size statute of him is erected in the provincial city of Brazil at Bahia…..
Yoruba religion is greatly revered in many powerful countries outside Nigeria. It is recognized as the 7th largest religion in the world and the only African religion embraced by many countries outside the continent…. So revered are the Yoruba Orishas that the church synchronized many of the Orishas into Catholicism including Oshun (Our Lady of Charity), Ogun ( Saint Peter) ) Yemoja ( Our lady of Regla) and Babalu Aye (Lazarus)
© Gbonka Ebiri

Yoruba Cultural Heritage Knowledge and Development Initiative

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