Beyond Diversity: Women, Scarification, and Yoruba Identity

By Ojo, Olatunji | History In Africa, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Beyond Diversity: Women, Scarification, and Yoruba Identity


Ojo, Olatunji, History In Africa


I

On 18 March 1898 Okolu, an Ijesa man, accused Otunba of Italemo ward, Ondo of seizing and enslaving his sister Osun and his niece. Both mother and daughter, enslaved by the Ikale in 1894, had fled from their master in 1895, but as they headed toward Ilesa, the accused seized them. Osun claimed the accused forced her to become his wife, "hoe a farm," and marked her daughter's face with one deep, bold line on each cheek. Otunba denied the slavery charge, claiming he only "rescued [Osun] from Soba who was taking her away [and] took her for wife." Itoyimaki, a defense witness, supported the claim that Osun was not Otunba's slave. In his decision, Albert Erharhdt, the presiding British Commissioner, freed the captives and ordered the accused to pay a fine of two pounds.1 In addition to integrating Osun through marriage, the mark conferred on her daughter a standard feature of Ondo identity. Although this case came up late in the nineteenth century, it represents a trend in precolonial Yorubaland whereby marriages and esthetics served the purpose of ethnic incorporation.

Studies on the roots of African ethnic identity consciousness have concentrated mostly on the activities of outsiders, usually Euro-American Christian missions, repatriated ex-slaves, and Muslims, whose ideas of nations as geocultural entities were applied to various African groups during the era of the slave trade and, more intensely, under colonialism.2 For instance, prior to the late nineteenth century, the people now called Yoruba were divided into multiple opposing ethnicities. Ethnic wars displaced millions of people, including about a million Yoruba-speakers deported as slaves to the Americas, Sierra Leone, and the central Sudan, mostly between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. As the Yoruba-speaking exiles encountered other groups in the diaspora, they found similarities in their cultures and through a process of ethnogenesis created the Nago and Lucumi (Americas) and Aku, later Yoruba (Sierra Leone) nations, into which later Yoruba and several non-Yoruba-speaking slaves were incorporated. After the cessation of the Atlantic slave trade, repatriated ex-slaves, Christian missionaries, and British colonialists introduced and marketed these diasporic ethnic designations to people left in the homeland.3

This is an attractive thesis, but one that requires modification. Without discountenancing those external factors that underpinned Yoruba identity consciousness, the paper argues that not enough attention has been paid to domestic factors that made this diasporic initiative acceptable to people in the homeland. With particular reference to the role of Christianity, very few Yoruba truly converted, and many of those who attended churches in Sierra Leone and the Americas relapsed into Orisa worship or Islam or a mixture of the three soon after their return. For practical purposes, the attitude of the Yoruba to Christianity was rooted in their understanding of Orisa worship to the degree that Christianity became Yoruba, as much as the Yoruba were Christianized.4

At levels comparable to the Atlantic world, people who remained in the Yoruba homeland also experienced enslavement, and population displacement and mixing, which resulted in the construction of new identities. Obviously, how people became "Yoruba" in the diaspora mirrored the absorption of Owu into Egba, Ijebu, or Oyo after 1820; the Yorubanization of Lagos after 1800; or the birth of Ekiti in the 1850s.5 This paper focuses on how the activities of homeland Yoruba shaped the process of ethnic identification. In particular, it concentrates on the institution of marriage, foreign wives, and cicatrization during the turbulent ethnic wars of the nineteenth century. It shows that warfare and the attendant population mix induced inter-ethnic marriages and the production of children with mixed ancestries. Population contact increased cultural adaptations such as the spread of certain religious rituals and scarification brands to places where they previously did not exist. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Beyond Diversity: Women, Scarification, and Yoruba Identity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.