Oba Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi: First King of Oyotunji Village
A youthful baba Oseijeman ( Serge) at the Order of Damballah Whedo temple Harlem, NY. circa 1956
Profile of an African Renaissance Man
His Royal Highness Oba (King) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, born Walter Eugene King on October 5, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He graduated from Cass Technical High School.
Baptized into Christianity at Hartford Avenue Baptist Church at age 12. Began the serious pursuit of art and dance at Cass Tech. and at the Detroit Urban League. He began African studies at age 16 to begin his great quest for the deities of Africa.
Exposure to African religion began with the association with the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe at the age of 20. Traveled to Haiti the same year, and founded the order of Damballah Hwedo, Ancestor Priests in Harlem NY the following year.
On August 26, 1959, became the first African born in America to become fully initiated into the Orisa-Vodun African priesthood, by African Cubans in Matanzas, Cuba. This marked the beginning of the spread of Yoruba religion and culture among African Americans. With a few followers, and after dissolution of the Order of Damballah Hwedo, founded the Sango Temple in New York. Incorporated the African Theological Archministry in 1960. The Sango Temple was relocated and renamed the Yoruba Temple the same year.
Introduced the Danshiki and began small scale manufacture of African attire in the summer of 1960. Founded the Yoruba Academy for the academic study of Yoruba history, religion and language in 1961. Opened the Ujamaa Market in 1961 beginning a trend of African boutiques, which, like the Danshiki, spread throughout African American communities.
Baba published several pamphlets. The Yoruba Religion, The Yoruba State and Tribal Origins of the African American to name a few. Participated in the Black Nationalist rallies of the 1969's and during that time formed the African Nationalist Independence Partition Party, aimed at establishing "an African state in America by 1972!" Designed a flag with red, gold and green bars; the gold emblazoned with a black ancient Egyptian ankh.
In the fall of 1970, founded the Yoruba Village of Oyotunji in Beaufort County South Carolina, and began the careful reorganization of the Orisa-Vodu Priesthood along traditional Nigerian lines. He was initiated to the Ifa priesthood by the Oluwa of Ijeun at Abeokuta, Nigeria, in August of 1972. Baba Adefunmi was proclaimed Alase (Oba-King) of the Yoruba of N. America at Oyotunji Village in 1972.
Oba Adefunmi convened the first official Ogboni Parliament of Oyotunji Chiefs and land owners in 1973, and later that year founded the Igbimolosa (Priest Council) to oversee priestly education and training, organize laws and rules to govern priestly conduct, ethics and behavior and adjudicate disputes among Orisa-Vodun priests. Also in 1973, commenced the construction of Osagiyan palace at Oyotunji Village. Oba Adefunmi I has been called " Father of the African Cultural Restoration Movement".
In 1981, the Caribbean Visual Arts and Research Center in New York sponsored Oba Adefunmi to be a presenter at the first World Congress of Orisa tradition and culture at the University of Ile-Ife, Nigeria. After his presentation, his Divine Royal Majesty King, Okunade Sijuwade Olubuse II, the "Ooni" of the ancient Yoruba city of Ile Ife,Nigeria, summoned Adefunmi and ordered the Ife Chiefs to perform coronation rites on him; Thereafter becoming Oba Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I. Oba Adefunmi I became the first in a line of new world Yoruba Kings consecrated at the palace of the Ooni of Ife. He was presented with a special ceremonial sword of state, incised with the name of his Liege Lord the Ooni of Ife.
In the summer of 1993, Oba Adefunmi supervised the establishment of Ijo Orunmila Igbo Mimo, The first African American Ifa society. That fall, he became the only official representative of traditional religion, to address the Parliament of World Religions in the one hundred year history of that organization.
Oba Adefunmi I married several times during his lifetime and fathered six princes and sixteen princesses. He has designed and contributed the major finance for most of the public buildings and temples at Oyotunji and worked on many of its numerous monuments and decorative carvings. Oba Adefunmi fostered the establishment of Yoruba Temples and Shrines in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Connecticut, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, DC, VI, Panama and England. He and his initiates have initiated thousands of priests into the ministries of Orisa-Vodun. In so doing, Oba Adefunmi restored to the African American the ancient sacred priesthoods of the deities, Esu, Orunmila, Obatala, Osun, Yemoja, Ogun, Oya, Sango and Olokun. And has restored to the African descendants the rites of Gelede, Egungun and Ancestor worship.
The Adefunmi coat of arms is the pampant golden leopard clasping an ankh in one claw and a sword in the other. Leopards are a traditional emblem of royalty. The beast is suscribed with the challenge: "Eluju ki ie di eluju ekun"."in time, the field belongs to the leopard"