Wednesday 11 January 2017

Of Tradition, contemporary interpretation of Yoruba Monarch, Ogunwusi’s swapping of seat with wife

By Tajudeen Sowole

A picture, it has been said, 'speaks thousand words'. Yes, but what has one second click of camera got to do with probing into the mindset of a young monarch, the Ooni of Ile Ife, Oba (King) Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi? He answer lies in conflicting views of tradition and contemporary behaviour. 
Ooni of Ile Ife, Oba (King) Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi with wife,
Olori Wuraola Zynab Otiti during a recent visit to Ghana.

The current Ooni has never hidden his desire for a shift in expanding the relevance of monarchy in contemporary African setting. As the 51st Ooni, coronated on 7 December 2015, he has since been in the news for all the change reasons that were hardly noted in history of monarchy sphere of Yorubaland, southwest Nigeria.

 The picture of Ooni Ogunwusi swapping 'position' with his wife, Olori Wuraola Zynab Otiti Ogunwusi confirms that the King of modern day ancient town of Ile Ife is somebody to watch, perhaps,
in what could be radical change from tradition and perception to modernity.

  The picture - for those who understand the sacred, spiritual and exalted spot of a king's 'ite' or stool in Yorubaland - speaks volume in another interpretation. The stool of a king in Yorubaland represents the crown. Some interpreters of traditions would aver that if the seat on which the Olori is seated is not the exact  one designated as chair of the Ooni, the sacred value of the king has not been abused. However, the fact that the Oba is standing at the same moment when his queen is seating - irrespective of where the scene takes place - is perhaps something that scholars in traditional Yoruba royal values would have to debate.

 While discussing the picture with two friends after it was posted on my facebook, there seemed to be divergent views. While friend A, a man in his 40s, was uncomfortable with the picture, citing contradiction in tradition, friend B, who is in his 60s argued that "there is nothing wrong" with what the Ooni has done. Both friends are Yoruba with some level of understanding of traditions of the people.

 What is my take on this picture? I think Ooni Ogunwusi, 42, is communicating to his generation; showing that the love of a King for his Queen knows no bound. But how traditionalists would chew and diggest the young monarch's expression of love, against the revered and sacred place of tradition is not known, yet.

 History, across the world and ages, has repeatedly shown the strength of romance over any other factors, particularly within many royal settings. For example, two of the '7 Wonders', each from the Old and New Worlds, were built as a mark of appreciating man's love for his woman. For example, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (c 555 BC) was constructed by King Nebuchanezzar II to appease his queen who, in the king's thinking should not be denied the luxury of greenery she was used to in her father's palace before marrying the Babylonian king, so says legends. While The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is no longer standing till date, the memories remain in the consciousness of romance histrionics.

 Also, the most magnificent among the New 7 Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttah Pradesh, India, built 1632-63 was a mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan (1628-1658). The Taj Mahal, now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 attracts 7-8 million tourists every year. Fortunes that nearly sent the wealth of the Shah into bankruptcy, according to history, was sunk into the construction of the sprawling architectural masterpiece.

 If these powerful men in their times did so much for the sake of their women, Ooni's mere 'vacating' of his 'seat' for just one second snap of camera to produce a beautiful piece of fashion and photography aesthetics shouldn't raise any dust. Whatever tradition says, the Ooni and his Queen, in this beautiful portrait make a great couple such that their 'sins' could be forgiven.

 In February 2016, Ogunwusi married Wuraola Otiti, also known in her native tradition as Otemwen n’uwa, Imose, as a Bini Princess. Before the marriage, Ooni Ogunwusi had been married to Olori Adebisi Adebukunola Ogunwusi.

 Interestingly, Olori Wuraola has her ancestral link to the Oluyare Compound, Iremo Quarters in Ile-Ife. Her marriage to Ooni Ogunwusi, according to sources, was meant to strengthen ties between Ile Ife and Benin.

 Since the royal marriage in February 2016, what has been alleged as the 'previous marital status of Wuraola' keeps recurring as a subject of controversy, mostly read in the online axis of Nigerian media. Whether or not the Olori was previously married and to who, is yet to be clarified.

 On October 26, 2015, Ogunwusi was selected as the king-elect out of 21 contenders to the stool in an announcement by the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. Being a prince from the Giesi Family, he emerged Ooni after defeating other competitors, inclufing his elder brother. He received his Staff of Office from Aregbesola on Monday 7 December 2015 at Enuwa Square, Ile-Ife.

 Since his coronation, the king has made news for a number of not able developments. Among such was his pronouncement to ensure that supremacy battles among Yorùbá kings is buried in history and not a recurring issue. Ogunwusi started living by example when on January 17, 2016, he broke a 79 year-old rivalry between the thrones of Ile Ife and Oyo by visiting the Alaafin, Oba Lamidi Adyemi.

 The last Ooni from the family was Ooni Dérin Ọlogbenla (1880-1894).

 Oba Ogunwusi assumed the title of Ojaja (II) as His father is Prince Rọ́pò Ògúnwùsì, a veteran broadcaster. He is the third son in a family of six and has three sisters.

Tajudeen Sowole is an art review writer based in Lagos.

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