Accepted paper:

The Babalawo in an African Polis

Authors:

Anthony Okeregbe (University of Lagos)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the philosophical implication of the interaction between the local Babalawo and the urbanized African.

Paper long abstract:

Although by popular understanding, the Babalawo may be regarded as a diviner, medicine man or an Ifa priest, in a profound sense, he is a professional in the traditional African setting, who possesses occulted knowledge about ultimate reality. He deploys this knowledge in order to understand and then draw wise conclusion or on a course of action. Notwithstanding the claims of urban enlightenment and the frequent rural-urban migration, the Babalawo is sought after as the solution provider to fundamental questions and perplexing situations people grapple with. Drawing insight from experiences in urban African settings, this paper examines the philosophical implication of the interaction between the local Babalawo and the urbanized African. It raises question such as: Why does the urbanized city dweller still patronize the 'rural' or local Babalawo? What is the implication of this overlapping of frontiers of knowledge on the urban African? The paper argues that in terms of dissemination of traditional African metaphysical ideas, epistemological principles and moral values, the Babalawo is the link between the rural (which harbours a repertoire of these ideas), and the urban, which is the portal of reaching out to the global world. It argues further that, while the interaction upholds the rural rootedness of the African, it also colours his perception of the idea of any global metaphysical pool, and glosses over rigorous subjection of the intellect to unravel truths about reality. Key words: Babalawo, the African, cultural relativism, sage philosophy

panel P177
Idealizing the Rural? Emerging Consciousness to Relocate African Theoria to the Village Square