November 30, 2023

By Raymond Jones

Separated by time and oceans, echoing the traditions of ancestors from West Africa, Yoruba tradition lives and thrives within the type of the ODUNDE competition in Philadelphia.  

Over 100,000 folks attended this 12 months’s ODUNDE, celebrating one other 12 months of African and African American tradition. It’s the largest African-centered competition in america.  Bumi Fernandez West continues the work of her late mom’s imaginative and prescient — ODUNDE founder Lois Fernandez — by internet hosting and coordinating the competition with its eclectic African and African American mixture of reside music, arts and crafts, in addition to native and worldwide distributors.  

The official begin of ODUNDE started at midday with a procession of 200 folks strolling in direction of the Schuylkill River, below the South Road bridge, to honor the God Oshun with choices of fruit and wine.

“We go to the river to pay homage to God and to thank God for permitting ODUNDE to final for 48 years,” Fernandez West mentioned.  Wearing ornate crimson and white conventional African garb and headdress, Fernandez West is a pressure of nature because the occasion’s chief.  

 As she led the procession of 200 folks to formally start the competition, strolling a number of blocks from twenty second and Grays Ferry to the South Road Bridge, the sound of drums and singers of conventional West African songs, reverberated all through the group.  Residents from the neighborhood resulting in the bridge stopped to take images of the singers and dancers. Stunning vibrant coloured outfits complimented the performer’s faces, which represented each shade of brown within the rainbow. 

After the procession, ODUNDE formally started with over 150 distributors opening to guests attending from everywhere in the world. By 2 p.m., lots of of individuals walked alongside the 15 blocks, bartering with distributors, shopping for meals from meals vehicles, and dancing to African music so far as the attention may see.

In accordance with Fernandez West, ODUNDE has a $28 million financial affect on the Metropolis of Philadelphia. 

“This was a tough 12 months for me,” mentioned competition attendee Daybreak Williams, a 44-year-old Philadelphian. “I really feel prefer to get my summer season proper, I’ve to return to ODUNDE.” Williams mentioned collaborating in ODUNDE is a part of a household custom.  Her teenage son is the third era of her household to attend the competition, she mentioned. “You stand lengthy sufficient on a nook throughout ODUNDE, and you will notice a member of the family or an previous pal,” Williams mentioned.  

Shiri Achu, a 47-year-old artist initially from Cameroon, now residing in London, is without doubt one of the dozens of worldwide distributors that attended the competition.  Her work seize scenes related to African tradition highlighting her specialty — drawings of Maasai Warriors and the landscapes of Kenya.

“Attending ODUNDE is the closest I’ve come to Africa since I left Cameroon,” Achu mentioned. 

In accordance with analysis, ODUNDE is a direct hyperlink to the Yoruba folks and faith practiced in Southwest Nigeria and Benin.  Via the Atlantic Slave Commerce, the Yoruba Individuals introduced their advanced mixture of worshiping a number of gods, spirits, and ancestral worship to america, Brazil, Cuba, and different components of the Caribbean.  An important god within the Yoruba pantheon is Olorun, who’s the creator god.  He’s typically depicted as a solar god liable for every little thing that occurs on this planet.  

The opposite main gods embrace Obatala, the god of fertility, Oshun, the goddess of affection and sweetness and Shango, the god of thunder and lightning. 

Fernandez West mentioned that the competition has all the time been held in South Philadelphia due to the neighborhood’s historic African American significance. 

“My mom informed me that South Philly has all the time had a major Black presence,” she mentioned. “Gentrification simply received right here — we’ve been right here.”

For 48 years ODUNDE has deliberately created a market organized and supported by and for African People and Africans as a way of empowering the African American group economically.

“I need folks to really feel after they come to ODUNDE, that we will help one another, love up on each other, and revel in these moments.” Fernandez West mentioned. 

Fernandez West mentioned her mom created ODUNDE in 1975 after a go to to Nigeria in 1971.  

“I prefer to say that those that might not have the ability to go to Africa, we convey Africa to you,”  Fernandez West mentioned. 

This 12 months, ODUNDE 2023 sponsored a couple of occasions throughout the week main as much as the competition on Sunday which included a yoga class, a style program, an African roundtable, and Caribbean roundtable discussions. 

The tip of the occasion culminated in a reside efficiency by R&B singer Chrisette Michelle.  A number of the sponsors for this ODUNDE 2023 included: Xfinity, PECO, WURD, Energy 99, The Philadelphia Tribune and WHYY.