Accepted Paper:

Western knowledge and African heritage: Ifá Heritage Institute as a focus  


Olorunfemi Dada (University of Ilorin)

Paper long abstract:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared Ifá (Yoruba divinatory oracle of wisdom and foreknowledge) as 'Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity' on 25th November 2005. The proclamation led to the establishment of the Ifá Heritage Institute, Oyo, Nigeria in 2008. This type of institution is timely as knowledge about Ifá has been decreasing as many Ifá priests died with few or anyone to pass the knowledge to. The institute exists mainly to preserve, promote and teach Ifá as an African knowledge system in this age of modernity. In recent times, Wande Abimbola, the coordinator of the institution has been working on the documentation, propagation and digitalisation of Ifá corpus via personal research efforts and the institution. There are five departments (Department of Ifá Studies, Department of Languages, Department of Medicine, Department of Performing Arts and Department of Indigenous Technology) in the institute which students can apply for, and the institution is tuition free. This post-secondary institution admits students from Nigeria and abroad. Its established was sponsored in part by UNESCO, and was only endorsed by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The remaining part of the establishment cost was borne by the coordinator of the institution. The institution is sustained through voluntary donations from individuals, private organisations and foreign bodies such as the Pagan Japanese Government. It is challenging that UNESCO and some foreigners could see great value in Ifá as an African Heritage which should not be allowed to go into extinction, but Nigerian government has been neglecting it. But this act is against the wish of UNESCO which expects Nigerian government to give financial support to the institution frequently. Consequently, the institution has not enjoyed considerable development like other institutes in Nigeria that concentrate on and propagate western knowledge. It is on this premise that this study aims at examining the consequences of colonialism on African Heritage and how Africans can be decolonised from its effects. This study will therefore use historical, empirical, and phenomenological research approaches to gather data historically, make observations, and describe the data without value judgement. Data will also be gathered by interviewing Wande Abimbola and Nigerian government representatives amongst others. The research findings and recommendations will be presented holistically and objectively.

Panel B09
Decolonizing African heritage inside and outside the African continent [initiated by the University of Mainz, with Leiden University/Anthropology, University of Rwanda]