Oduduwa

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Oduduwa Olofin Adimula, Emperor of the Yoruba was the first Ooni, or monarch, of Ile-Ife. He held the regnal names Olofin Aye and Olufe. His name, phonetically written by Yoruba language-speakers as Odùduwà and sometimes contracted as Ooduwa, Odudua or Oòdua, is generally ascribed to the ancestral dynasties of Yorubaland because he is held by the Yoruba to have been the ancestor of their numerous crowned kings.[1] Following his posthumous deification, he was admitted to the Yoruba pantheon as an aspect of a primordial divinity of the same name.

A Statue of Oduduwa
Ife bronze head depicting a monarch, possibly Oduduwa
Ife Kings Head.jpg
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Occupation Monarch

About Oduduwa[edit]

Etymology[edit]

  • Oduduwa is the power of the womb, that brings forth into existence
  • Oduduwa represents omnipotence, the ability to affect and reconstruct the physical reality at will.

Narrative[edit]

Settlement[edit]

According to oral traditions, Oduduwa was an exiled prince of a foreign people who left his homeland with a retinue and journeyed south, subsequently settling amongst the aboriginal Yoruba at some point in the 12th century CE. He is said to have brought the Yoruba religion with him when he came. This faith system was so important to him and his followers that it is said to have been the cause of their exodus in the first place.

The location of Oduduwa's land of origin is a matter of some debate. The histories of a number of the Yoruba lineages claim that he was a prince of Mecca. It was supposedly the persecution of the Muslim elite of the city that caused him and his fellow animists to leave Arabia.

Other Yoruba believe that Oduduwa was a migrant from Egypt, not Arabia. Amongst the holders of this view, much of the innovations of the Ooduan period are seen to be traceable to the culture of medieval Egypt.

The Binis of Benin City, meanwhile, claim that Oduduwa was in fact a prince of theirs. He is alleged to have left Benin due to a struggle over the royal succession. It is supposedly due to this fact that a descendant of his was subsequently allowed to found the dynasty that rules the kingdom of Benin today.

Whatever the case may be, it is now considered a historical fact that Oduduwa and his fellow settlers were outsiders from elsewhere that were absorbed by the aborigines of Ife and the rest of Yorubaland. The co-mingling of settler and aborigine led to the development of the monarchical system of the Yoruba people and its associated culture.

Later years[edit]

Upon the ending of Oduduwa's time on Earth, there was a dispersal of his children and grandchildren from Ife to the outposts that they had previously founded or gained influence over, in order for them to establish effective control over these places. Each is said to have made his or her mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of the Yoruba confederacy of kingdoms, with each child or grandchild fashioning his or her state after Ile-Ife.

Orunto, a child of Oduduwa that was born to his maid, is the ancestor of the families that are entitled to inherit the Obalufe title - it is held by a royal that's traditionally ranked second in the order of precedence at the Ooni's court.

Obalufon II Alayemore was on the throne when Oranmiyan returned from his sojourn and ordered that the kingship be given to him and hence back to the legitimate family of Oduduwa. Oranmiyan's son Lajamisan was therefore the progenitor of all of the Oonis that have reigned in Ife from his time till now.

Ife Traditions[edit]

In contradiction of the preceding oral histories, Ife tradition relates that Oduduwa was an emissary from the community of Oke-Ora, the easternmost part of the Ife cultural area which stretches towards the Northeastern Ijesa people. He descended from the Hills on a chain, earning the oriki Atewonro (which means 'one who descends on a chain'). He is said to have been a warrior that wore armor made of iron. At that time, a confederacy existed between the 13 communities of the valley of Ile-Ife, with each community or 'Elu' having its own Oba; the Oba of Ijugbe, the Oba of Ijio, the Oba of Iwinrin etc.

When Oduduwa rose to be a prominent citizen of ancient Ife, he and his group are believed to have conquered most of the 13 component communities and deposed Obatala, subsequently evolving the palace structure with its effective centralized power and dynasty. Due to this, he is commonly referred to as the first Ooni of Ife and progenitor of the legitimate kings of the Yoruba people.

Oduduwa and the line of Olowu[edit]

The first child of Oduduwa, Okanbi Iyunade, married Obatala and later gave birth to the future crowned king of Owu. He is believed to have acquired his crown as a toddler while crying on his grandfather's lap.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaketu[edit]

Omonide, Oduduwa's favorite wife, gave birth to Sopasan, the father of the future crowned kings of Ketu. Sopasan was the first to leave Ile-Ife with his mother and crown. He settled at such temporary sites as Oke-Oyan and Aro. At Aro, Soposan died and was succeeded by Owe. The migrants stayed for a number of generations and broke camp in the reign of the seventh king, Ede, who revived the westward migrations and founded a dynasty at Ketu.

Oduduwa and the line of Òràngún[edit]

Ajagunla Fagbamila Orangun, the first legitimate son of Oduduwa, is crowned king of Ila. Oduduwa is said to have wanted more sons to silence his critics. On the advice of the Ifa oracle, he went to a stream, where he found a naked lady by the name of Adetinrin Anasin. She eventually became his wife and the mother of Ifagbamila (which means "Ifa saves me")

Oduduwa and the line of Onisabe[edit]

  • Another son is subsequently crowned king of Sabe.

Oduduwa and the line of Onipopo[edit]

  • A third son is crowned king of Popo.

Oduduwa and the line of Alaafin[edit]

Oranyan went on to found Oyo-Ile. His sons Ajaka and Sango rule Oyo in their turn.

Oranmiyan[edit]

Oranmiyan was the last son and the most adventurous of the members of Oduduwa's household. He was the first Alaafin of Oyo and the sixth Ooni of Ife. He also established the dynasty of the Oba of Benin.

Moremi and The Ugbo[edit]

After the dispersal of the family of kings and queens, the aborigines became ungovernable, and constituted themselves into a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be supporters of Obatala who had ruled the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these people turned themselves into marauders. They would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and burn down houses and loot the markets. It is at this point that Moremi Ajasoro, a princess of Offa, of the lineage of Olalomi Olofagangan, the founder of Offa-Ile and the paramount head of the Ibolo region of the old Oyo kingdom, a member of the Ooduan dynasty by marriage to Oranmiyan, is said to have come onto the scene; she subsequently played a significant role in restoring normalcy back to the situation through a spying mission. She allowed herself to be captured and taken away with them. Subsequent to this she got married to the king of the Ugbo. Her new husband wanted pleasures from her but she wouldn't give in because she was married previously and was on a mission. She told him to tell her the secret of the marauders, he didn't want to but after a great deal of prodding, he gave in. He told her that the only thing they fear was FIRE, if they saw fire they would run. After this information she concocted an escape plan. She asked for some oranges and made the juice have a sleeping effect on the palace people. When they woke up after eating them, they found that she had gone to tell her people of their weakness. The people of Ife were soon prepared for the marauders.[2]

Alternative views[edit]

Oduduwa and his role in creation[edit]

Oral traditions about the dawn of time claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite Orisa. As such, he (or she, as the primordial Oduduwa is gender fluid) was sent from heaven to create the earth upon the waters, a mission he/she had usurped from his/her consort and sibling Obatala, who had been equipped with a snail shell filled with sand and a rooster to scatter the said sand inorder to create land. These beliefs are held by Yoruba traditionalists to be the cornerstone of their story of creation. Obatala and Oduduwa here are represented symbolically by a calabash, with Obatala taking the top and Oduduwa taking the bottom. In this narrative, Oduduwa is also known as Olofin Otete, the one who took the Basket of Existence from Olodumare.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ *Obayemi, A., 'The Yoruba and Edo-speaking Peoples and their Neighbors before 1600 AD', in JFA Ajayi & M. Crowder (eds.), History of West Africa, vol. I (1976), 255-322.
  2. ^ Yoruba Alliance:Who are the Yoruba!

Further reading[edit]

  • Ojuade, J. S., 'The issue of 'Oduduwa' in Yoruba genesis: the myths and realities', Transafrican Journal of History, 21 (1992), 139-158.