The Oyotunji African Village, a small community off of Highway 17 near Beaufort, will host its second annual Pan-African Grassroots Assembly July 4-7. Speakers at the event will include Oyotunji’s King Oba Adefunmi II, Gullah/Geechee Head of State Queen Quet, and Jamaican-born Rastafarian poet Mutabaruka.
Adefunmi, who has been king of the village since July 2005, says that Oyotunji has about 20 full-time residents who are living in the Yoruba tradition of Southwestern Nigeria. “People come to Oyotunji to get a glimpse of Africa, to have a glimpse of what African village life would be like, with the colors, the festivals, the dances, and the dress,” Adefunmi says. His father, Oba Adefunmi I, founded the village in 1970 after studying Yoruba culture and religion and participating in black nationalist rallies in the 1960s, according to the village’s website, oyotunji.org.
For this year’s Pan-African Grassroots Assembly, speakers will address topics including parenting, women’s empowerment, male and female rites of passage, polygamy and polyandry, midwifery, and agriculture. “As you know, the African people in North America have many, many social problems,” Adefunmi says. “And here at Oyotunji, we say that an understanding of the culture that produced those people could be a valuable resource, if you will. So we look forward to sharing the knowledge of our ancestors and the knowledge that people have come up with.”
Adefunmi says he first met the poet Mutabaruka while playing drums with him in Jamaica, but their paths crossed again last year in Toronto, Canada, when Adefunmi shot a video of the poet talking about agriculture. “He started to speak about the universe and how people can live a whole life and they haven’t grown a tomato,” Adefunmi says. “So he began to articulate about how we fit into agriculture, how we fit into the future, sustainability.”
Mutabaruka is best known for his trenchant lyrics, which sometimes deal in social commentary. In his piece “Dis Poem,” he begins, “Dis poem/ shall speak of the wretched sea/ that washed ships to these shores/ of mothers cryin’ for their young/ swallowed up by the sea/ dis poem shall say nothin’ new.”
Adefunmi says the event is not just for African Americans. “We seek to have a very diverse event this year, as we did last year,” he says. People attending the assembly can make reservations for camping spots or hostel-style lodging through the village’s website.
The village is also seeking to grow in numbers. “We are always looking for people to be a part of the village and move into the community and build a home,” he says.