Yorùbá culture and music as connections, identity formation and disruptions among African Americans

Albert Oikelome (University of Lagos)
Olusegun Stephen Titus (Obafemi Awolowo University)
Olupemi Oludare (University of Lagos)
Omotayo Oloruntoba-Oju (Adekunle Ajasin University)
Arts and Culture
Chrystal McMillan, Seminar Room 2
Friday 14 June, 8:45-10:30
Friday 14 June, 10:45-12:30

Short abstract:

This work will examine how songs, dance and festivals provide an opportunity to better understand group identity and reinforce cultural memory in the United States of America. The project will also identify changes in the production of Yorùbá culture in the USA in comparison with Nigeria.

Long abstract:

African music and dance are emerging as viable tools for identity formation among African Americans in the United States of America. This is seen in the increase of festivals, performances and other activities that recreate cultural practices of West Africa in particular. Festivals provide a space and resources for constructing ethnic identity that augments racial identity. Of particular interest to this study is the increase of Yorùbá cultural activities within African American communities. Increasingly, Yorùbá culture is being embraced by some African Americans as a means of rediscovering or redefining one's cultural heritage. Celebrating Yorùbá traditions including oriṣa worship, rites of passage and àríyà ceremonies in America provides an avenue for exploring linkages between Yorùbá land and Africans in Diaspora. The study of this phenomenon in the United States is distinct from past studies of retentions of Yorùbá culture in Brazil, Cuba and Haiti because there has not been a continuity of Yorùbá cultural practices in the US. This recent trend in the US involves new cultural contact between Americans and Nigerians, often through Americans making a pilgrimage to Nigeria or developing relationships with immigrants living in the US. One narrative of the process of Yorùbá identity formation by an African American born in the US is Efúntólá Oseijeman Adéfúnmi (1928-2005, née Walter Eugene King) who traveled to Haiti, Cuba and ultimately Nigeria before establishing Òyótúnjí Village in South Carolina in 1970. This project will examine the role of Yorùbá music and other representations of Yorùbá culture in African American celebrations, festivals and rituals.