Kokahvah Zauditu-Selassie
Morgan State University

Kokahvah Zauditu-Selassie, a priest of Obatala in the Lukumi/Yoruba tradition, currently teaches at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. . Formerly an Associate Professor and Chair of the African World Studies and History Department at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, she earned a B.A. degree in Speech Communication from California State University, Fullerton, the M.S. degree in Reading from Morgan State University, and the Doctor of Arts in the Humanities with a concentration in English from Clark Atlanta University. She has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, National Council for Black Studies fellow at the University of Ghana, Legon, a Fulbright Fellow in Cairo, Egypt, a New York University Scholar-In Residence, A Mellon Fellow at the Goree Institute in Dakar, Senegal, and a Fulbright scholar in the Republic of South Africa. Dr. Zauditu-Selassie has lived, studied, and traveled extensively in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. Her teaching specialization is African American literature while her research focuses on African spiritual culture.
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Got a Home in Dat Rock: Memory, Orisa, and Yoruba Spiritual Identity in African American Literature

In literature, African American writers have mediated the distance between African belief systems and Western Hemispheric realities of Africans in America by employing symbolic, temporal, and cultural codes reflective of Yoruba traditional values and belief structures. Undermining the culturally negating strictures of American racism, writers insist that the African journey is cyclical and continuous, not linear and finite. These writers present their spiritual considerations in a variety of literary genres typifying the dynamic re-codification of Yoruba worldview. Employing spiritual landscapes and ideas emblematic of the Yoruba, these writers depict the primacy of ancestral memory by re-constructing the concept of Orisa and accompanying iconography in order to strengthen African people in America and repair cultural and psychic breaches. Advancing the capacity of these works to represent the social, spiritual, and aesthetic principles of Yoruba traditional beliefs, my aim is to briefly identify and interpret

the underlying spiritual realities of Yoruba Orisa tradition beyond, Gates’ “Signifying Monkey” theory, which focuses exclusively on the Orisa, Eshu Elegba. In this paper, I locate principle Orisa inscribed in the literature to which Eshu, the master interpreter and interlocutor, communicates on behalf of their devotees. My analysis begins with the narrative autobiographical tradition examining the concept of God or Olodumare encoded in The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, and the notion of Babalawo in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I then explore the idea of ase in Henry Dumas’ Short story, “Let The Circle Be Unbroken,” the role of Iyalorisa in Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow Of Tradition and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters. I conclude with a brief examination of Morrison’s use of Orisa including: Ibeji as the leitmotif of twinning in Paradise, her depiction of the archetypal hunter, Ossosi in Jazz, Oya and Egungun in Sula and Beloved, and Osun in Tar Baby.