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Book Review: The Yoruba A New History By Akinwumi Ogundiran

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The Yoruba: A New History is the first transdisciplinary study of the two-thousand-year journey of the Yoruba people, from their origins in a small corner of the Niger-Benue Confluence in present-day Nigeria to becoming one of the most populous cultural groups on the African continent.

 

Weaving together archaeology with linguistics, environmental science with oral traditions, and material culture with mythology, Ogundiran examines the local, regional, and even global dimensions of Yoruba history.

The Yoruba: A New History offers an intriguing cultural, political, economic, intellectual, and social history from ca. 300 BC to 1840.

 

It accounts for the events, peoples, and practices, as well as the theories of knowledge, ways of being, and social valuations that shaped the Yoruba experience at different junctures of time. The result is a new framework for understanding the Yoruba past and present.

 

The deep-time history of the Yorùbá is the subject of this book. It is an account of (1) the experiences and events that shaped the long-term history of the ancestral Yorùbá people; (2) the generative actions that they used to translate their experiences into new practices or traditions; and (3) the principles and values that made life meaningful for them between ca. 300 BC and AD 1840.

 

Based on new questions, evidence, and conceptual frameworks, this book offers the opportunity to rethink Yorùbá history in new ways. In the following pages, I emphasize the cultural-historical approach in order to understand the “ways of being” of the Yorùbá ashistorical subjects (ontology); their “theories of knowledge” (epistemology); and the regimes of value and aspirational principles (axiology) that they created at different historical junctures. With these, I account for the cultural forms, practices, events, and ideas, as well as mentalities, imaginations, and meanings that constituted the Yorùbá experience for about two thousand years.

The book comprises ten chapters divided into five parts. The first chapter lays out the theoretical, conceptual, and methodological frameworks that shape the themes and contents of the volume. I make the case why it is necessary to bring empirical-, comparative-, and theoretical-minded habits to the study of Yorùbá history. In chapter 2, I provide a sketch of the historical groundwork that laid the foundation for the emergence of the Yorùbá world ca. 300 BC–AD 500. I also use a suite of archaeological, historical, and linguistic data to shed light on the four core principles that shaped the Yorùbá cultural identity in the second half of the first millennium AD. The first is the ilé (House), the building block of their sociopolitical organization. The second, the dyadic o.ba/ìlú-aládé (divine kingship/urban), served as the model of political culture and ideology of governance. The third is the complementarity of gendered duality as the epistemological framework for constructing and imagining social order.

 

And the fourth centers on the search for meaningful living through the quest for immortality. In chapter 3, I examine how these four principles and the knowledge capital associated with primary glass production and a universal cosmology/theogony were deployed to create the consciousness of a regional Yorùbá community of practice between the eleventh and the late fourteenth century.

In the next two chapters, I examine how turmoil beset the Yorùbá world between the 1420s and 1570s as a result of internal and external sources of stress that upturned the lives of several communities (chap. 4), and the processes of recovery that followed between 1570 and 1650 (chap. 5). During the age of restoration that followed the crisis, new practices of political culture and power relations developed that necessitated the revision of the community’s theogony and many aspects of its epistemology. The aftermath of these processes, especially their culmination in the rise of new hegemonic states and the entanglement of the Yorùbá in the Atlantic commercial revolution, 1630–1840, is the subject of chapters 6–9.

 

In those four chapters, I examine the interlocking threads of the political, economic, social, ideological, and intellectual innovations that wove the Yorùbá world into the web of the early modern economy, and the impact on the development of a new regime of value. My emphasis in this section of the book is on the permeation of the Atlantic merchant capital into the different domains of everyday life, both in the intimate spaces of the household and at the macro level of the state.

I explore two themes in chapter 6: (1) the inauguration of slave/

merchant-capital exchange and the hegemonic power politics that sustained it; and (2) the use of the imports deriving from the Atlantic slave trade as merchant capital and their investment in the commercialization of the region’s economy. In chapter 7, I focus on the regime of value—especially practices of taste, self-realization, aspiration, and social difference—created by the merchant-capital revolution. The chapter emphasizes the socialization of Atlantic imports into everyday life and the implications for the emergence of an object-centered Yorùbá world. Chapter 8 examines how the experiences of monetization, specialized production, a market economy, slave/merchant-capital exchange, and hegemonic power politics created new practices of labor relations and new avenues for highly pyramidal unequal accumulation. As a result, gender and class inequalities widened; the relationships between the individual and corporate groups were redefined; and the vertical and horizontal boundaries of social differences hardened. All of these led to a cataclysmic breakdown of social order, the subject of chapter 9. I link this breakdown to the persistent demands for African labor in the Americas and the unsustainability of the merchant-capital revolution that underwrote hegemonic power and individual accumulation. The outcome was

 

 

“In this brilliantly conceived and successfully executed project, Akinwumi

Ogundiran deploys a cultural-historical approach to pose new questions on how

the Yoruba as historical subject created their own epistemology, new eras of

aspirational values and principle, and conceptions of honor and respectability.”

—Saheed Aderinto, author of Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria

“An exquisitely detailed and evocative portrait of the Yorùbá “community

of practice” that will change the ways we think about Yorùbá history and

culture and become a seminal source for present and future scholars.”

—Henry John Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor Emeritus of African

and African Diaspora Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“This book will command the attention and respect of scholars, students,

researchers, and the general reader in the fields of history, archaeology,

anthropology, sociology, and culture for a long time. It is an excellent

addition to the literature and reference works on African Studies.”

—Olutayo C. Adesina, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

The Yorùbá: A New History is the first transdisciplinary study of the two-thousand-year

journey of the Yorùbá people, from their origins in a small corner of the Niger-Benue

Confluence in present-day Nigeria to becoming one of the most populous cultural groups

on the African continent.

Akinwumi Ogundiran is Chancellor’s Professor and Professor of Africana Studies,

Anthropology & History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is coeditor

of Materialities of Rituals in the Black Atlantic, named a Choice magazine 2015

outstanding book.

Cover image by Moses Ogunleye, Ibadan, 2011. Source: Author’s collection

By  Femi Adepoju

Faleye Oluwatosin

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Art and Culture

Breaking: Potsherd Pavement Discovered In Ekiti State

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Potsherd

An archaeological and touristic feature, a long potsherd pavement has been unearthed at the palace of Onimesi of Imesi Ekiti, Gboyin Local Government of Ekiti State.

 

The Onimesi, Oba Adetunji Olatunde who exposed this historical and transgenerational heritage asset during the visit of the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ekiti State on Tourism Development, Ambassador Wale Ojo – Lanre to his palace today said that the potsherd pavement has a trail not only in the place but in other part of town

 

Ambassador Ojo- Lanre who said he was in Imesi Ekiti in furtherance of the assignment on profiling historical and cultural heritage of tourism significance in Ekiti State was elated when Oba Olatunde conducted him round the palace and unveiled the potsherd pavement which he said dated back to hundreds of years.

 

 

Ojo – Lanre said those potsherd pavements are evidence of age long civilization associated with the ancestral towns of historical significance adding that with the assistant of archaeologist there could be more revelation on the Imesi potsherd pavements

 

 

Oba Olatunde disclosed that “Imesi town is an ancient town of rich and glorious past. An old kingdom that has given birth to many towns in Yoruba land. Apart from this potsherd pavement, Imesi also harbours many heritage and touristic assets like Iseku stream which has been found to be of medicinal value and the traditional healing water of great potent and a cave which harboured our forefathers during the war “

 

 

He revealed that “I am a product of a rich cultural pedigree. I understand the value which the enhancement of tradition, arts, culture and tourism could bring to a town.

 

That is the main reason we are branding Imesi as a cultural- tourism town of immense proportion. You see that our Imesi Museum of Royal Antiquities which is the first in the state is 95 per cent completed and will be inaugurated during the First Year coronation ceremony slated for June 12 – 17. And within the time.

 

Imesi will host the first Royal Arts exhibition in Ekiti State

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Art and Culture

Fayemi’s Aide, Wale Ojo Lanre Bags Singapore’s World Cultural Society’ Country’s Team Co-coordinator

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The Federation of World Cultural and Arts Society, Singapore, FOWCAAS, has appointed Ambassador Wale Ojo – Lanre, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ekiti State as its Team Leader and Chief Coordinator in Nigeria.

 

 

The world cultural organization which has its chapters in 96 countries with headquarter in Singapore is saddled with the mission of strengthening and promoting global link with cultural, arts and tourism organizations, bodies, institutions; organize international cultural and artists exchange programmes, enhance global culture and arts for deepening of world peace and mutual global co-existence, showcase intercontinental diversity of arts and artistic activities for appreciation and understanding, promote , create confidence in Chinese culture and arts within the global concept and strengthening Singapore’s relations with cultural and artistic circles around the world

 

According to a letter of appointment signed by Grand Master Jason Tan, FOWCAAS President, Singapore ‘ FOWCASS has acknowledged and approved Ambassador Wale Ojo – Lanre, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria, as the Team Leader and Chief Co-coordinator to represent FOWCASS in the Nigeria Cultural Link in West – Africa “

 

According to the letter, the appointment is valid for two years from 01 March to 28 February 2023, subject to renewal upon approval from the FOWCASS Council “

 

The letter disclosed that Ojo – Lanre was appointed after “ We found Ambassador Ojo – Lanre, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ekiti – State, Nigeria a worthy and competent cultural- tourism minded fellow who can be our point of contact in Nigeria, after a thorough survey and profile auditing of some Nigerians who have been active and passionate in the promotion and branding of the cultural – tourism asset of Nigeria with the aim of fostering g global peace, engendering intercontinental mutual respect and understanding, and projection of unity of purpose in global cultural diversity “

 

The letter revealed that “ By this appointment, Ojo- Lanre is not only the focal point of FOWCAAS in Nigeria, West – Africa link but the Team leader and Chief Coordinator of the mission and objectives of FOWCAAS in Nigeria “

 

Ambassador Ojo – Lanre a graduate of History Education at Adeyemi College of Education has a Masters in Peace and Conflicts Studies, from the University of Ibadan, and a Law degree from Lead City University , Ibadan, is a seasoned journalist with a bias for culture and tourism at the Nigerian Tribune Ibadan, also bagged a Certificate in Green Growth and Travelism , from Hasselt University, Belgium is at present, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Ekiti – State on Tourism Development.

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Art and Culture

History Made As Prof Ogundiran Exhibits Outcome Of 5 -Year Archeological Yoruba Work

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Prof Ogundiran

A Nigerian-American archaeologist and cultural historian, Professor Akinwunmi Ogundiran, yesterday, held a photographic exhibition of his five-year archeological work at the site of Oyo Ile (Old Oyo and Bara).

 

Oyo Ile was the headquarters of the old Oyo Empire and the centre of Yoruba civilisation, while Bara is the final resting place of several Alaafins. Ogundiran, whose research focuses on the Yoruba world of western Africa, Atlantic Africa, and the African Diaspora, is the author of a new book on Yoruba history, titled, ‘The Yoruba: A New History’.

 

Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, making a point while being taken on a tour of the exhibition by Ogundiran

 

 

The Professor of Africana Studies, Anthropology and History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA, has been leading the 10-year Old Oyo Archaeological Project in Bara, which began in 2017.

The exhibition, which was held in Oyo town, yesterday, attracted dignitaries from across the country. Some of those in attendance include, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III; Conservator General of the Federation, Ibrahim Goni and Chairman, Local Advisory Committee on Old Oyo National Park, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu (rtd). Alaafin, in his speech, promised his support for the archeological project and the authorities of Nigerian National Park Service in ensuring the preservation of Old Oyo and Bara heritage sites. Other highlights of the occasion included a tour of the photographic exhibition by dignitaries and presentation of the new book on Yoruba history to the Alaafin by the author.

During the tour of the exhibition, Ogundiran observed that Old Oyo, with a population of about 100,000, was one of the largest cities in the world.

More photos from the occasion:

 

 

 

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