The Ogboni Chiefs of Oyotunji Village in South Carolina released the news of the death of their king
YORUBA KING DIES
HRH Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, a historic figure and the spiritual leader of western practitioners of the Yoruba faith and culture, passed away on Thursday, February 10th at Oyotunji African Village in Beaufort County, South Carolina. In the place that he founded 33 years ago for descendants of ancient Dahomean and Eweh people in the west to be able to practice what he called the rain forest version of the ancient Egyptian Mystery System,"Kabiesi" as he was affectionately called, had experienced declining health in recent years and died peacefully. Funeral Rites will be performed Sunday, February 20th at 1 p.m. at the African Village, Highway 17, Sheldon, South Carolina.
Better known among religious scholars, in African cultural circles, and the Yoruba community, the Oba was born Walter Eugene King in Detroit, Michigan. As a young man his aspirations to dance led him to Harlem where he joined the famed Kathryn Dunham Dance Troupe. It was on a 1952 tour of Egypt with the troupe that King became enamored with the study of African culture and religion and vowed to restore the same to the African American. Making good on his promise, upon his return to the United States, King commenced a series of life altering practices. He founded the Order of Damballah Hwedo Ancestor Priests and made and sold daishikis on the streets of Harlem, encouraging "Negroes" to throw off the clothes of the European and take up the garment of kings and queens. Continuing his elevation in traditional studies, King formed a unique relationship with Afro-Cubans when in 1959, he became the first African American to be initiated into the Orisha-Vodu African priesthood at Matanzas, Cuba. In 1960 he would establish the Shango Temple and incorporated the African Theological Archministry. Later in 1970, he formed the African Nationalists Independence Partition Party, aimed at establishing an African State in America. In 1972, King led a handful of followers to Savannah, Georgia in search of land to establish their kingdom. Eventually they would settle on a 12- acre plot in the low country of South Carolina in Beaufort County. In the ensuing years, upwards of 300 people lived in what became Oyotunji African Village, where they were shadowed by likenesses of African deities on Temple Row, free to practice and study Yoruba culture and religion. In August of that same year, King would travel to Nigeria where he was initiated into the Ifa Priesthood by the Oluwa of Ijeun at Abeokuta. The road was now paved for royal ascendancy and in October, 1972, Walter Eugene King, now known as Oseijeman Adefunmi was proclaimed "Alashe" (Oba-King) of Oyotunji. Nine years later, at the University of Ife in Nigeria , he would receive coronation rites at the direction of His Divine Royal Majesty King Okunade Sijuwade, Olubushe II, the Ooni of the ancient holy city of Ile Ife. He was presented with a special ceremonial Sword of State, thus becoming the first in an emerging line of New World Yoruba Kings.
Oyotunji African Village's African Theological Archministry has been consulted for many thesis, books on the Yoruba culture, and Hollywood movies. Celebrities joined tourists, activists and scholars who began to visit the village - notably the Rev. Jessie Jackson, the late Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee. Oprah Winfrey invited the Oba and several of his wives to a show on polygamy.
Earlier, in his own words, Adefunmi summed up his premise on the condition of the African American:
"It is a profound "cultural void" which reduces the African American imagination to impotence when situations and conditions, either favorable or unfavorable, suddenly occur. It is lack of a refined frame of reference [that] prevents wise choices and decisions in moments germane to racial advancement or survival. It is the loss of cultural hindsight [that] induces the evaporation of any self-willed vision of the future. This "cultural amnesia" is the greatest abomination which can befall an individual, a generation, or a nation, since the human quality of each individual, each generation, and in time the entire people, progressively declineb&"
A contemporary of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, this "King" took a different path of righteousness for African Americans than that of his other brothers of vision. With grace, Oba Oseijeman Efuntola Adelabu Adefunmi I leaves an enduring legacy for thousands of practicing Yoruba in the Americas who, because of his influence, have reclaimed their cultural and more importantly, their spiritual identity.
For information concerning information contained in this press release, contact:
Jeanette Stephens-El; phone 856-979-1192.
Iya Afin Songofunmilayo
In the Footsteps of The King Ashe