In a study that challenges familiar Western modes of thought, Jacob K. Olupona focuses on one of the most important religious centers in Africa and in the world: the Yorùbá city of Ilé-Ifè in southwest Nigeria. The spread of Yorùbá traditions in the African diaspora has come to define the cultural identity of millions of black and white people in Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and the United States. Seen through the eyes of a native, this first comprehensive study of the spiritual and cultural center of the Yorùbá religion tells how the city went from great prominence to near obliteration and then rose again as a contemporary city of gods. Throughout, Olupona corroborates the indispensable linkages between religion, cosmology, migration, and kinship as espoused in the power of royal lineages, hegemonic state structure, gender, and the Yorùbá sense of place, offering the fullest portrait to date of this sacred African city.
Jacob K. Olupona is Professor of African Religious Traditions, African, and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of Kingship, Religion, and Rituals in a Nigerian Community: A Phenomenological Study of Ondo Yoruba Festivals and has edited several books, including Beyond Primitivism: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Modernity.
“Olupona does a masterful job of interweaving historical detail, personal interviews and observations. Here, myth becomes lived reality, and one is forced to take pause and ask what and where indeed are the true powers that enable humans to inhabit the modern city.” —Charles H. Long, author of Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion
“This book is destined to be the authoritative source on one of the most important religious centers and one of the most fascinating ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a remarkable and engaging piece of research by a first-class scholar who knows his discipline and his native culture.”—Barry Hallen, author of The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Discourse About Values in Yoruba Culture