Oku people (Sierra Leone)

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Oku people
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Total population
25,000 (0.5% of population]]
Regions with significant populations
Sierra Leone, Gambia
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Religion
Sunni Islam (99%)
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Yoruba people
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The Oku people of Sierra Leone is an ethnic group of Sierra Leone and according to some scholars is a sub ethnic group of the Creole people.

The Oku people are primarily the descendants of educated liberated Yoruba Muslims from Southwest Nigeria who came to Sierra Leone as settlers in the mid 19th century. Many Oku historically intermarriage with the ethnic Creole people, who were primarily descendants of African American and West Indian freed slaves.

The Oku are virtually all Muslims at 99%, of the Sunni tradition of Islam, and are known for their deeply conservative Muslim tradition . The Oku traditions and culture are a combination of primarily Islamic and Western tradition.

The British colonial government provided official recognition to the Oku community as a distinctive community in Sierra Leone. Although the Sierra Leone government officially classified the Oku people as members of the Creole ethnic group.

The Oku people in Sierra Leone are mainly found in the capital Freetown, particularly in the Freetown neighborhood of Aberdeen Village, Fourah Bay and Fula Town. Most Oku people have Islamic first names and English last names. Most Oku people also have Yoruba middle names.

Origin[edit]

The Oku people are mainly descended from the Yoruba Liberated Africans that were resettled in Sierra Leone during the nineteenth century. These Liberated Africans formed a distinctive community based at Aberdeen village, Fourah Bay, and Fula Town. As early as the 1840s, there were references to 'Aku Mohammedans' and because the communities at Fourah Bay were distinctly of the Yoruba tribe, they were referred to as 'Aku' or 'Oku' Mohammedans.

Culture[edit]

The Oku people have a distinctive culture that has strong similarities with the Yoruba people. The Aku often have Arabic first and last names, although some Oku people later adopted the names of prominent benefactors such as Savage or other European surnames to gain admission into the missionary schools. It is not uncommon for some elder members of the Oku community to speak the Yoruba language in addition to the Oku variety of the Krio language.

Relationship with the Sierra Leone Creole people[edit]

Some scholars consider the Oku people as entirely distinct from the Creoles (Marriage Rites among the Aku (Yoruba) of Freetown, Olumbe Bassir Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul., 1954), pp. 251–256) and some scholars consider the Oku as a sub-ethnic group of the Krio, rather than a separate ethnic group.[1]

Some scholars argue that the Oku community is a branch of the Sierra Leone Creole people due to some similar surnames and cultural aspects such as Awujoh. However, other scholars consider the Oku community as a distinctive community that has cultural practices that Creoles do not practice such as female genital mutilation, participation in traditional African societies such as the Bondo society, traditional political leaders such as the Alkadi, and specific Muslim tenets. Some scholars also argue that the Oku people are primarily of Yoruba descent, in contrast to the Creole community which is of mixed Liberated African, African American and West Indian descent.

Community Organisation[edit]

Oku communities in Sierra Leone are represented by an Alkadi, the community leader.

Cultural Associations[edit]

The Oku people are represented by cultural associations such as the Ebilleh Cultural Organization which aims to preserve and enhance Oku Mohammedan cultural heritage in Sierra Leone and abroad.

Notable ethnic Oku[edit]

  • Mohammed Sanusi Mustapha, one of the founding fathers of Sierra Leone"s Independence
  • Abdul Tejan Cole, human rights lawyer, and former head of the Sierra Leone Anti Corruption Commission
  • Khadijatu Bassir, Sierra Leone Ambassador to Senegal
  • Madieu Williams, Sierra Leonean American football player
  • Haja Afsatu Kabba (born Haja Afsatu Savage), Sierra Leonean politician, former minister of energy and power, and former member of parliament
  • Madinah Rahmam, Sierra Leone deputy minister of health
  • Isha Johansen (born Isha Savage), president of the Sierra Leone football association
  • Abdul Rashid Thomas, Sierra Leonean journalist, founder and publisher of the Sierra Leone Telegraph Newspaper
  • Sulaimam Alpha Carew, Sierra Leonean Muslim scholar
  • Mohammad Alpha Tejan, Sierra Leonean Muslim scholar
  • Ahmed Deen, Sierra Leonean footballer
  • Umaru Rahman, former Sierra Leonean international footballer

Oku families[edit]

  • Alghali
  • Bakarr
  • Dahniya
  • Deen
  • Iscandri
  • Osman
  • Lewally
  • Carew
  • Cole
  • Savage

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Krio of West Africa: Islam, Culture, Creolization, and Colonialism in ... - Gibril R. Cole - Google Books. Books.google.com. 15 September 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2015.

Sources[edit]