Ifa concept of Obatala in Yoruba history

According to Ifa oral tradition the first Oba (king) of the Yoruba Nation was Oduduwa from the elision Odu (womb) dudu (black) iwa (character) meaning the Invisible Source of Character. The word black in relationship to the word womb is a reference to the invisible or hidden mystery of Creation. The name Oduduwa suggests someone who manifests the essential nature of Creation. The Ifa Creation Myth says Oduduwa came from the east and settled in the country now called Nigeria. At this point the narrative has two distinct components. First Obatala arrives at Ile Ife and becomes the progenitor of the indigenous people of the earth. The reference to Oduduwa appears to suggest settlers from another part of Africa joined the original people who lived in and around Ile Ife. Migration, immigration and assimilation are natural cycles of any culture that is thousands of years old. A simple study of Yoruba linguistics shows a wide range of cultural influences from across the continent and in the Middle East.

I have visited the shrine of Oduduwa in Aleketu. It is in the home of the Oba of Aleketu who is a direct descendant of Oduduwa. The oral tradition of the shrine in Aleketu says that Oduduwa migrated to the west from Egypt after becoming initiated as Pharaoh. The association between Egyptian culture and Yoruba culture is controversial for a number of reasons including the inference that any such association diminishes the contribution made to African culture by Africans. Some of this controversy is, I believe, the result of the deliberate denigration of African history in general and Egyptian history in particular by those historians who use political agendas to distort the historical record. An examination of this record shades light on some of the reasons for the controversy and gives some background on the confusion and contradictions that make any understanding of African history a challenge.

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