The Yoruba Kingdom: Memories of a Sixth Wife

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THE YORUBA KINGDOM Memories of a Sixth Wife MA Architecture 2019 - 2020 History and Theory Studies Tutor: Valerio Massaro OLUWAFOLASADEORIMI OKUNRIBIDO


Interpretative line drawing.


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M e m o r i e S s i x o t f h a

W i f e


Preface

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Introduction

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The Afin

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The City

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The Kingship Today

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Conclusion

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Afterword

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Yoruba Translations

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Bibliography

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Contents


PREFACE Having been born, brought up and lived in the UK, I have often wondered and wished to know more about my ancestral history, in terms of the relationship between the culture and the architectural achievements. After attending the first few HTS lectures, I began to ask myself where did Yoruba people dwell? What were the deep-seeded traditions, beliefs and ways of life? How did Yoruba’s traditionally plan and organise their houses, towns and cities before ‘The scramble for Africa’, more pressingly, before the rapid rate of urbanisation we see in cities like Lagos today? This History and Theory project has acted as a springboard, to invite and stimulate a pride that comes with knowing one’s history. I have been propelled to recognise, study and ultimately share a glimpse into the pre-existing knowledge of traditional Yoruba architecture and its former role within Yoruba society.

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Introduction The Yoruba people represent a linguistic group and culture that primarily occupied the southern tropical rainforest region now known as Nigeria. Other groups include the Igbo, who also reside in the tropical parts, the Hausa and Fulani occupying the northern savanna and the Ijaw occupying the coastal wetlands. Furthermore, the Yoruba’s are distinguished by multiple tribes such as the Oyo, Ijebu and Ife which are also the names given to the land on which they inhabit and the preceding terms used to identify the Oba (King) presiding over each area (see figure 1).

Figure 1 West African countries and their traditional divisions1 This text is a fictional historical account of Yoruba townships and dwellings. The essay will assimilate information from multiple towns to build a picture of what life might have looked like for a wife of an Oba in the nineteenth century. It is important to note that some of the descriptions and depictions come from a neighbouring ancient city, the Benin Empire (based in south-eastern Nigeria), which is similar to that of the ancient Yorubaland– this allows for a more complete picture of the time.2 The text follows the memories in the life of Rotimi, the sixth wife of the Alaafin of Oyo3 (see figure 2), at a time when British and German missionaries started to visit various parts of western Africa to spread the gospel of Christianity. Though there were many Obas in the Yoruba society, in this essay I will reference those with the most documented information. The Memories of the Sixth Wife will depict how the compounds in traditional Yoruba towns were organised according to a socialpolitical structure, determined by lineages, the age- grades and sets, title societies, the councils 1

Paul Oliver, Shelter In Africa (London: Barrie & Jenkins Ltd, 1971), p.16

2

The Benin empire and the Yoruba Empire have a lot in common in the field of art, politics and early beginnings.

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Alaafin is the name given to the Oba presiding over the Kingdom of Oyo.

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The Yoruba Kingdom


of chiefs and the Kingship.4 The text will describe the relationship between the architecture of the individual buildings, from the afin (King’s palace) to the igbo ile (flock of houses) arranged across the city, thus illustrating how the politics of Yoruba society were embedded into the form, structure and organisation of the towns.

4

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, Yoruba Palaces (London: University of London Press LTD, 1966), p.29.

5 The National Archives UK, ‘Alaafin Oyo’, The National Archives UK, 2011 <https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalarchives/5416764778/in/ photolist-9fEksb>.

Figure 2 Alaafin of Oyo on horseback c.19105

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Extracts from Yoruba Palaces1 1 Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, Yoruba Palaces (London: University of London Press LTD, 1966), p. 34,18, 17.

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The Yoruba Kingdom


The Afin

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Memories of a Sixth Wife

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1 The Afin MORNING Rotimi wakes up early in the morning on a platform bed raised about one metre off ground. The bed is laid with skins, cloth and parts of the spungy tree called plantain. Above her is a compact thatched roof, woven with two local species of palms.6 It provides shelter from the rain and insulation from the cold at night during the harmattan season. At night, she will cover herself with calico or muslin– the same materials that make up her dress. Rotimi’s precious possessions are stored within this space out of sight. The walls and floors are covered with mats and she has a few seats in the form of logs to accommodate guests7 (see figure 3). Rotimi’s children sleep separately in the afin, in a set of buildings surrounding their private courtyard.

Figure 3 Sketch example of a wives’ bedroom in the context of Afin Akure. (See page 33 for more information) There is a small slit, between the densely packed mud wall which allows for a thin ray of light and subtle ventilation. On the opposite side, one will find a narrow wooden door where most of the air will pass in and out of the room. The rooms of the afin often have very few and slight window openings and whilst some might consider this to be claustrophobic, for the Yoruba, it enhances privacy whilst 6

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, p.17

7

Oliver, p.7

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The Yoruba Kingdom


creating a sense of intimacy- once the door is closed. The rooms greatly contrast the large open courtyards which lay on the other side of the door. The women will often gather in the courtyards but, within the room, Rotimi can confine her actions to a much smaller and private spatial setting.8 Outside of the room is a courtyard strictly designated to the wives. It is forbidden for any man to enter this part of the afin except for the Oba and any castrated male slaves. Cooking always takes place within one of the external courtyards; Rotimi will soon visit there, along with a few of the other wives to prepare the Oba’s morning meal (see figure 4).

Figure 4 Left: A Yoruba king being fed by one of his wives. Right: The Oba sacrifices a pigeon for a god.9 Rotimi is asked by the Oluwa, head of the Oloris (wives of the Oba), to begin peeling and washing the yams. The women use rounded pots, stored in a nearby room, to prepare the food. There are a large number of courtyards here. Each has a specific use, highlighting the commitment to bringing order whilst suggesting that there is a time and place for everything within the afin (see figure 5). The afin at Owo is said to be the largest and once held over two hundred courtyards covering just over 17km2 of land (see figures 6 and 7).

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John Michael Vlach, ‘Affecting Architecture of the Yoruba’, African Arts, 10.1 (1976), 48–99 <https://doi.org/10.2307/3335257>, p.51.

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‘Historic Orisha Illustration’, Orisha Image <https://www.orishaimage.com/blog/orisha-illustration> [accessed 26 November 2019].

The Afin

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Ă€FIN OYO IN 1937 | OYO CITY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

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Kaa Idi Obi -

Meeting place for Alaafin and senior chiefs for deliberation of the administrative matters of the town as a whole Kaa Esin For looking after the horses. Caretakers of Alaafin’s horses stay in rooms around this courtyard. Kaa Gbedu Playground for wives during the day and rooms around it for maids. Kaa Ile Iyaloke Reception courtyard for meeting the wives of Alaafin with their relatives. Kaa Ile Osanyin Kekere - Female slaves for wives spend most of their time here. Kaa Iyake Ifa Oracle is consultedevery five days on behalf of the Alaafin. Kaa Olorunkunmefun - Following every public assembly in (26) the Alaafin will retire here until late in the night. Kaa Ode Aro Every friday all Oyo chiefs come here to pay their respects to the Alaafin.A servant of each chief must come and salute the Alaafin here every morning. It is the most frequented courtyard and therefore the largest. Kaa Okoto Kekere Inner retiring place of the Alaafin Kaa Ile Igba sleeping apartment for some of the wives faces this courtyard, mostly used in the late hours until bedtime. Kaa Ile Imole The sacrafice for the annual Odun Imole is prepared here with the Ilaris (palace servants) oin attendance during such preparation. Kaa Ile Okoto Nla The wives retire in and around this courtyard. Kaa Ile Agbo Courtyard within some of the living quarters of wives. Kaa Ile Ise Courtyard within some of the living quarters of wives Kaa Ile Osanyin Nla Male servant courtyard. In preparation for the Odun Imole, the servants plait the hair on a half portion of the head and closely shave the other half. Kaa Ile Aya Oba During the Ogun festival all the wives sit around him in this courtyard. Kaa Ile Ori Head of the Alaafin worshipped here, on his behalf, by his wives and slaves by sacraficing a cow. Neither the Oba or his chiefs are present during this celebration. Kaa Ilekoto Courtyard within the living quaters of the wives. Kaa Adodo Courtyard within the living quaters of the wives. Kaa Aiyekale Alaafin has refreshments with ordinary people here. Kaa Kolara Oke Courtyard within the living quaters of the wives. Kaa Kolara Isale Courtyard within the living quaters of the wives. Kaa Ogun Primarily for the Ogun festivals. Kaa Koriko Courtyard for recieveing Bales from the Oyo empire. Kaa Iledi Largest courtyard where the Alaafin meets with the townspeople. Such meetings Kaa Aganju usually take place three times year during festival of Sango, Imole (or Ogun) and Beere. Kaa Omole Princes (other than the crown Prince) and Princess live in the apartments around this courtyard and the one to the east. Kaa Kere Private courtyard for Alaafin during first three months of his installation, otherwise used by the children. Kaa Omole Iya Oke This and the courtyard to the east, house the aged wives of the late Alaafins who live in the surround apartments.

Temple of all-purposes-deity Temple of Sango Temple of Orisafunfun Princes and Princesses Apartment

The Yoruba Kingdom


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OWO CITY | ONDO STATE | NIGERIA

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The Yoruba Kingdom


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Figure 6 Map of Owo city, the traditional capital of a Yoruba city state that dates back between 1400 and 1600AD. Afin Olowo is towards the centre.

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ÀFIN OLOWO IN 1964 | OWO CITY

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Ugha Gbebu Ugha Yeyeowa -

Courtyard for the wives Courtyard where some of the wives are installed chiefs. Also where the wives make sacrifices and celebrate during the new maze and new yam festivals. Ugha Tere Courtyard for the wives Ugha Okelade Courtyard assigned to the Oluwa, head of the Oloris (wives of the Olowo). Food and presents for the Oloris are served here, the Oloris are also punished here. Ugha Odoile Courtyard where the Olowo takes his meals Ugha Oluwabunmile - Courtyard for the wives Ugha Moron Courtyard where the Olowo worships his head sculpture Ugha Eyinode Public assembly courtyard Ugha Ugankun Courtyard for the Olowo to retire, to rest Ugha Agwe Courtyard where the Olowo makes medicines Ugha Akomaduse Courtyard for senior chiefs to pay homage to King Ugha Dunmo Courtyard used by chiefs for ajo festival every nine days Ugha Okeagbala Courtyard for princes and princesses to play Ugha Obga Courtyard where food presented to the Olowo during festivals is stored Ugha Odoile Courtyard for the use of the Oba Each courtyard is named after a previous King.

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Former ugha okunrin (modern playing field) Chapel Garage Olowo’s modern storey building District Council dispensary Town Library Market Shed for Olowo’s wives Apartment for Olowo’s paid employees Grade ‘B’ Court

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Figure 7 Built up part of Afin Olowo in 1964. The Afin

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COMPLEXITY OF THE PLAN The plan of the afin is complex, forming an intricate labyrinth with several different courtyards and rooms seeming to reflect the density of activity that occurs within the building. In these times, the size of the afin directly related to the number of wives an Oba had, as he had a responsibility to provide them with bedrooms (see figure 8).10 The complexity could be a result of the way the building has been developed over time. Or perhaps, the plans were devised as a way to confuse intruders who enter without permission (see figure 9). Despite this speculation, the plan clearly illustrates the complex relationships between inhabitants of the afin- those who visit, those who dwell, those who have passed on and even the divine.

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Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, Yoruba Palaces (London: University of London Press LTD, 1966), p.68 0 5

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The Yoruba Kingdom

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Figure 9 Thresholds at Afin Akure demonstrate the complex plan SMALL COURTYARDS The afin has many small courtyards dedicated to ritual practices and sacrifice carried out seasonally by the Oba. Rotimi does not use these spaces although she has passed by. The Oba’s kingship bears a sacred importance. The throne is shrouded in mystery and his aura is magically powerful, far beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. He annually performs the traditional practices for the prosperity of the kingdom and the people’s welfare- both of which he is responsible for.11 Small enclosed shrines are placed alongside larger courtyards, with central raised plinths against solid walls. The plinths allow the Oba to physically lay out and elevate his sacrifices above himself. When rituals take place, the rooms are closed off to contain the sacrality and mystery within them (see figure 10).

Figure 10 Shrine next to the courtyard for holding meetings with chiefs at Afin Akure 11 DrRaphael James, ‘Benin Kingdom Long before Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ <https://www.drraphaeljames.com/2019/11/beninkingdom-long-before-europe.html> [accessed 5 April 2020].

The Afin

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LARGE COURTYARDS The largest courtyards are always dedicated as meeting places for the Oba and his townspeople. This is where the Oba will invite the townspeople to discuss matters and hold annual celebrations. In return, the townspeople will bring food and gifts to be stored in a separate courtyard or room. The people of the town are the rightful owners of the afin and the Oba and his family are simply residents. It is the people’s responsibility to build and maintain the afin (see figure 11).

Figure 11 Surrounding settlements connected with maintenance of Afin Owo and Oyo12 At Afin Akure, a single opening in front of the Oba’s storeyed living quarters13 gives him direct access to his throne. The Oba will step down into the largest courtyard in a processional formation before stepping back up into his throne. Steps are another characteristic of the afin that physically alter the way people enter and exit the spaces. One usually steps up into the afin, signifying entry into a special space and protects the internal spaces from water. Steps down into a courtyard unconsciously announces one’s lower position before the Oba (see figure 12). One of the largest courtyards dedicated to the townspeople is found at Afin Ewi, where the horseshoe-shaped public assembly ground, the Igbamote, provides a place where 200 people can spread out (see figure 13). 14

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Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, p.64

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It was forbidden for the Oba to live with a woman, so he has his own quarters.

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Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, p.44

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Figure 12 Top: Largest courtyard at Afin Akure and the Oba’s throne beneath a kobi. Bottom: Steps within the afin.

The Afin

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ÀFIN EWI IN 1923 | ADO - EKITI | NIGERIA

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Chief servant quarters Arowo’s Compound Compound of Ewi’s relatives

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Courtyard where two hundred can spread out Courtyard used by the princes and princesses/ space for the egungun (Masqueraders)/ sheltered area for taking oaths. Meeting place for the King and his Chiefs from the town and neighbouring village Courtyard space for castrated male servants/ Iwemo ceremonies (Christening royal children) Courtyard strictly for Ewa’s wives Courtyard surrounded by kitchens (strictly no males allowed) Courtyard use by the mother of the child, christened during the Iwemo ceremony, for three days.

The Yoruba Kingdom


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Figure 13 Afin Ewi in Edo-Ekiti The Afin

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AFIN GARDEN As Rotimi stands to cook, her feet are above a ground paved in quartz and potsherds15 bearing resemblance to what you might see in the Oba’s afin garden. The Oba is expected to live in total privacy and cannot show his face outside of official meetings and annual celebrations. As a pseudodeity, he should not be seen by the general public on a normal day. The walls surrounding the afin at Ile Ife were five-and-a-half metres high and just under one metre wide. The vast garden, behind the afin, is the Oba’s “self-contained paradise”. Here he could enjoy leisure activities such as hunting (see figure 14).16 The garden design was of great importance and was seen as an art. ‘Gardens are the link between men and the world in which they live, for every man in every age have felt the need to reconcile themselves with their surroundings, and have created gardens to satisfy their ideals and aspirations’.17 The gardens served both utilitarian and ornamental purposes, including farm gardens, kitchen gardens, sacred gardens with temples, herb gardens, graveyards and a wilderness landscape as a hunting park. Majestic and sacred trees are carefully planted around statues, monuments and paved walkways.18

15 United States National Park Service, Places of Cultural Memory: African Reflections on the American Landscape : Conference Proceedings, May 9-12, 2001, Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2001) <https://books.google.co.uk/ books?id=RrIVAQAAIAAJ>, p.103 16 cosmicyoruba, ‘Yoruba Palace Gardens’, The Adventures of Cosmic Yoruba, 2017 <https://cosmicyoruba.xyz/yoruba-palace-gardens/> [accessed 6 April 2020]. 17

Sylvia Crowe, Garden Design (Thomas Gibson Publishing), 1981.

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J. B. Falade, ‘Yoruba Palace Gardens’, Garden History, 18.1 (1990), 47–56 <https://doi.org/10.2307/1586979>.

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Figure 14 Aerial view of Owabokun’s afin, Ilesa. The rectangular afin is framed by the adjoining roads and enclosing walls. The afin served as a focal point in the town. Behind it is the elaborate garden, which still has its medieval wooded landscape. 19

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Left: Figure 14 Aerial view of Owabokun’s afin, Ilesa. The rectangular afin is framed by the adjoining roads and enclosing walls. The afin served as a focal point in the town. Behind it is the elaborate garden, which still has its medieval wooded landscape 19 Above: Figure 15 Murals at Afin Oyo20 19

Falade, p.53.

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Bowen, p.43.

The Afin

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This content downloaded from 79.72.176. All use subject to https: Murals at Afin Oyo

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.110 on Mon, 06 Apr 2020 13:08:36 UTC ://about.jstor.org/terms

The Afin

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AFIN DECORATION Many afin are also decorated with sculpted doors, walls and columns carefully crafted by the people, highlighting the sovereignty of Oba. In Yoruba culture, the creation of art is considered to be religious. There are a number of murals at Afin Oyo; the most prominent being abata aremo at the main entrance gate. The mural represents the kingship and the Oba is depicted as an erin (elephant), clearly signifying his power and awe-inspiring gait.21 Other illustrations include the beautifully spotted leopards, foolish monkeys, ostriches, peacocks, slaves, swords, serpents, birds and royal umbrellas.22(See figure 15). At the back of the afin, in one of the wives’ courtyards (the kaa iya oloya) one will also find three bas-relief murals. The pieces were designed and crafted by Rotimi and a few of the other wives,23 (see figure 16) clearly showing the significant level of freedom, artistic ability and ownership that the wives had.

Figure 16 Bas relief murals at afin Oyo, also found with traces of indigo (colour produced from the leaves of an elu plant), white and black paint.24 21 Adés O Lá O Láté, The Yorùbá Animal Metaphors: Analysis and Interpretation , 2005 <https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/TheYor%C3%B9b%C3%A1-Animal-Metaphors%3A-Analysis-and-L%C3%A1t%C3%A9/f3ff34ce00946e373693d587b9c3793de39d381d#citing-papers>, p.372. 22

Anne Bisci Bowen, ‘Murals at Afin Oyo’, African Arts, 10.3 (1977), 42–45 <https://doi.org/10.2307/3335301>.

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Bowen, p.43.

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Bowen, p.43.

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At Afin Ikere, elaborately carved wooden figures are constructed as veranda posts. The central column is a diminutive portrayal of Oba Olukere, sculpted by artist Olowe of Ise. The sculpture suggests the Oba’s dependence on others with his crown being emphasised to imply the divine power within it. The figure supporting the roof represents the senior wife who would have crowned the Oba at his coronation, thus representing her superior status as guardian of her husband’s interests. The smaller figures at the Oba’s feet represent a junior wife and the trickster god Eshu with his flute (see figure 17).25 Although women were not often celestial leaders within society, it is clear that their role was considered to be of high importance- especially if you were an elder within the community.

Figure 17 Afin Ikere veranda posts (Opo Ogoga) sculpted between 1873-1938.26 25 ‘Veranda Post (Opo Ogoga)’, The Art Institute of Chicago <https://www.artic.edu/artworks/102611/veranda-post-opo-ogoga> [accessed 5 April 2020]. 26 Arts of Africa Final (Slide Identification) at University of Iowa’, STUDYBLUE <https://www.studyblue.com/notes/note/n/arts-of-africa-finalslide-identification/deck/9108734> [accessed 12 April 2020].

The Afin

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THE AFIN FROM THE CITY Upon entering the afin from the surrounding city, the roofs are steep yet low-lying as they slope down to reach single storey external walls and courtyard columns. Outside the afin, the roof appears to be one large mass which will irregularly cascade up and down, forming mounds. The tallest part of the roof always hosts the Oba’s room for greeting guests; the contrasting scale is a symbol of his authority. At Afin Akure, this is the only part of the building which has an additional story above- this is where the Oba sleeps. Most entrances into the afin are small, shallow and dark. The physical opposition between the entrances as well as the great mass of the roof increases the afin’s monumental presence. From the outside, the afin seems impenetrable, upholding the mystery by increasing the distance between the Oba and his people (see figure 18).

Figure 18 Yoruba afin at Abeokuta, 1946 27 Here, at Afin Oyo, previous Oba Alaafin Oluaso constructed 120 kobi (imposing gabled porch) around the afin entrances. The kobi served the purpose of bringing the Oba closer to the townspeople outside. However, only he would sit beneath it as a sign of his authority.

27 ‘The Art And Architecture Of Yorubaland! - Culture - Nigeria’ <https://www.nairaland.com/770881/art-architecture-yorubaland> [accessed 26 November 2019].

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The relentless repetition seen in some of the afin designs brings consistency and a sense of unity to the whole. The rhythm adds excitement and visual interest, whilst providing a practicality in the form of a continuous veranda for cover from the sun. Any symmetry seen within the elevation expresses the order and precision of the kingship (see figure 19).

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Figure 19 Sketches of Old Oyo afin from 1853, lower sketch depicts multiple kobi.28

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Falade, p.49.

The Afin

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Image 11 Afin Oyo

Above Missions-Bilder: Sierra Leone und Yoruba (Bereinsbuchhandlung, 1875), p.120.

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The Afin

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STRUCTURE OF MAIN BUILDING AFIN AKURE | NIGERIA

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Uwa Nla Uwa Ogoga Uwa Elese -

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Uwa Ojuto Uwa Layo Uwa Lake Uwa Ile Idana -

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Public assembly ground Shrines for three past kings Place where criminals and offenders are subjected to punishment. All past Obas are also worshipped here. A meeting place for the Oba and his wives, forbidden to others New Deji’s (King specfic to Akrue) and cheifs take oaths here, linked to courtyrad K. Annual place of celebration for the Kings Ikomo warriors Urinal, especially during meetings in K Oba meets with plantiffs and defendants involved in serious cases for settlement here. Also a play space for palace servants and their store. Retiring apartment for Oba. Restricted to all except special servants and virgins. Sacrafical shrine, portions disposed of in the hole Discussing state matters of absolute secrecy between Oba and cheifs. Gifts from hunters presented to the Oba also where chiefs and other well to do citizens would give presentations to the Oba. Passage link for the Oba between courtyards Originally only for the wives but now converted to used by the Oba’s mother Exclusively for the wives of the Oba Exclusively for the wives of the Oba Exclusively for the wives of the Oba Kitchen courtyard where the Oba’s food was prepared

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Above : Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria: The Wunmonije heads at the British Museum in 1948.1 Right: Veranda column at Ilesa on display at The Art Institute of Chicago 2

1 ‘The History of Ile-Ife, the Ancient Yoruba Kingdom with Africa’s Most Striking Sculptures’, Face2Face Africa, 2018 <https://face2faceafrica. com/article/the-history-of-ile-ife-the-ancient-yoruba-kingdom-with-africas-most-striking-sculptures> [accessed 26 November 2019]. 2 ‘Veranda Post (Opo Ogoga)’, The Art Institute of Chicago <https://www.artic.edu/artworks/102611/veranda-post-opo-ogoga> [accessed 5 April 2020].

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The Afin

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2 The City “Their houses all on the ground floor are built in compounds called agbo ile (lit. flock of houses), that is to say in the form of a hollow square, horse-shoe or circle, enclosing a large central area, with one principal gateway the house being divided into compartments to hold several families, all more or less related or united by ties of kinship, or friendship. One piazza runs right round the whole and it used for all ordinary purposes; usually horses, sheep and goats are found tethered in it.”29 – Samuel Johnson (native Yoruba Historian)

In the context of the wider city, the afin is usually centred on a concentric plan, elevated above the rest of the city and surrounded by a defensive wall, ensuring maximum protection for the Oba during times of war (see Figure 20). The afin is a focal point for the political, social, economic and religious affairs of the community. High ranking chiefs and townspeople were dispersed around the Oba, with their compounds looking towards the afin. In the 16th century, Yoruba’s lived in cities which contained more than 50,000 residents.30 Not only was the Oba the ruler over the people, but also the overseer of the principal market placed ‘under the eaves of the palace’31. The Oba is the ‘overseer of the market’32, thus making his home a place of exchange for food and goods. This allowed him to control and preside over trade within the city as all routes usually lead to the market and, therefore, the afin.33

29 Samuel Johnson and Johnson, The History of the Yorubas: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p.98. 30 John Michael Vlach, ‘The Brazilian House in Nigeria: The Emergence of a 20th-Century Vernacular House Type’, The Journal of American Folklore, 97.383 (1984), 3–23 <https://doi.org/10.2307/540393>, p.4. 31

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, p.35.

32

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, p.32.

33

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, p.30-32.

39

The Yoruba Kingdom


Figure 20 Ibadan, Nigeria. Church and mission 1877.34

Before Rotimi became a wife to the Alaafin, she lived in her father’s compound with her grandparents, mother, siblings and her father’s second wife, who also had children. The compound had a large central akodi (impluvium-courtyard), which primarily served utilitarian purposes such as cooking. However, it was also used for family deliberations, adjudications, ceremonies and storytelling.35 The courtyards contain pots for collecting rainwater from the roof (see figure 21 and 22). The house was a place of residence for craft-making, storage and relaxation (most of which would take place in the open space enclosed by single-storey rooms). The courtyard and the veranda, on the inner side of the compound, was like an intensely used living room. Mats, stools, palm branches and animal skins were hung on the veranda walls and set down on the ground for important guests. Crafts such as hairdressing, ginning, carving, and vertical-loom weaving (see figure 23) were carried out by the women of the house whilst the men weaved baskets, worked leather and wood.36

34 Anna Hinderer, Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country :Memorials of Anna Hinderer /, New [4th] ed. (London :, 1877) <http://hdl.handle. net/2027/uc1.31175012764810>. 35 C. Osasona and F. Ewemade, Ile Timi : The Interface between Traditional and Vernacular Architecture in Ile-Ife, 2011, p. 114 <https://doi. org/10.2495/STR110091>. 36

G. J. Afolabi Ojo, ‘Traditional Yoruba Architecture’, African Arts, 1.3 (1968), 14–72 <https://doi.org/10.2307/3334339>, p.14-15.

The City

40


The courtyard was used for a plethora of different activities. Therefore, the space remained uninterrupted by permanent objects, allowing a range of items, stored within rooms, to animate the spaces when it was necessary. The simple and flexible organisation ensured that the compounds could be passed down through the generations with few changes to the original structure.

Figure 21 Impluvium in the Adewole compound. Modakeke, March 1974. The opening in the roof above the impluvium provides light and ventilation for the courtyard. Any rain that falls into the courtyard can be caught and sorted in large pottery jars or drained out of the house through the gutter seen in the foreground.37

Figure 21 Impluvium in the Adewole compound. Modakeke, March 1974. The opening in the roof above the impluvium provides light and ventilation for the courtyard. Any rain that falls into the courtyard can be caught and sorted in large pottery jars or drained out of the house through the gutter seen in the foreground.36

Figure 22 Section through a traditional house in Ibadan, Oyo State

Bedroom access was limited, especially into Rotimi’s father’s room. The room of the head of the house is usually directly opposite the main gateway, slightly to the right or at the front of the house. This part of the roof is, once again, loftier and more spacious than the rest of the household. It is where the master of the house is expected to ‘show his face’ for the reception of visitors and guests; he can be found there at all times during the day (see figure 24). 38

37

Vlach, ‘Affecting Architecture of the Yoruba’, p.99.

38

Johnson and Johnson, p.98.

41

The Yoruba Kingdom


Figure 22 Section through a traditional house in Ibadan, Oyo State

Figure 23 Vertical loom weaving in Northern Nigeria.39

39 AFRIQUE Northern Nigeria . Hausa Loom. Cpa Animée. | For Sale on Delcampe , Delcampe <https://www.delcampe.net/en_GB/ collectables/postcards/nigeria/afrique-northern-nigeria-hausa-loom-cpa-animee-128363484.html> [accessed 9 April 2020].

The City

42


‘In the courtyard of the house, elders may discuss family concerns while children dart in between them and chickens scurry under their benches. Not too far away some women may be pounding yam with their pestles in a steady thumping cadence. Other youngsters may argue loudly and start to fight on top of the graves of some ancestors whose remains are buried under the floor’40 The roof form of the house is shaped like a saddle with one side slanting into the courtyard and another slanting out of the compound. This recognisable characteristic of Yoruba architecture often causes it to be termed “impluvial” or “rain-collecting’ architecture to protect from the elements.41 It would seem that the afin is simply a more complex and intricate version of the impluvium-style house. Compounds outside of the afin walls were usually modest and without ornamentation. Only a chief’s house would have a kobi at the front as a symbol of his stature in the community. The presence of a kobi signified a point for the exchange of goods or religious activities outside of the afin and central market. The house hosted multiple courtyards for this use. (See figure 25). All dwellings were made from mud walls which must be maintained every year to preserve them in such a hostile environment. The Yoruba are a nation of farmers. Up to 15 miles outside of the city walls, one will find rich farmland. 42 Rotimi’s Grandmother’s farm sits on the outskirts of the city. The houses here follow the concentric circles radiating from the afin, thus maintaining their attachment to the town.43 The tropical rainforest provides favourable conditions to grow fruit and vegetables such as plantain, cassava, and yam. The farmhouses are the core unit for Yoruba architecture. The basic buildings here, typically having two rooms measuring 3x3m, are simply made from mud walls and a thatched roof lasting hundreds of years with vigilant care and maintenance. The houses are usually built for individuals on farm sites forming a home away from home in the city. The first room doubles as the “kitchen” and “parlour” whilst the inner room is reserved for sleeping and storing private items. Bush houses are designed for individual intimacy and, as modest as they are, seem to provide the basic building block for the architecture seen throughout the city. The triple module houses are a series of two-room spaces often built to provide a separation between individuals and families. The double module rural compound also makes use of the two-room module in rows or clusters of houses which form the porous courtyards at the centre. This formation is no different to what we see inside the city walls. In all cases, the buildings are situated to form a large, open centres in contrast to small, dark and intimate private spaces (see figures 26 and 27). 40

John Michael Vlach, ‘Affecting Architecture of the Yoruba’, African Arts, 10.1 (1976), 48–99 <https://doi.org/10.2307/3335257>.

41

G. J. Afolabi Ojo, p.17.

42

Vlach, ‘The Brazilian House in Nigeria: The Emergence of a 20th-Century Vernacular House Type’, p.4.

43

Vlach, ‘Affecting Architecture of the Yoruba’, p.51.

43

The Yoruba Kingdom


1

2

Three-legged house

Family elder residence in Ile Ife, Nigeria.

Speculative location of the master’s apartment with other family units highlighted.

3

Family compound in Ebunabon, Nigeria.

Bedroom

Kitchen/Parlour

0

5

10

20m

Figure 24 Plan of the Folarin family compound, in Edunabon, Nigeria, Feb 1974. The City

44


Speculative location for trading items or holding meeting

0

5

10

20m

Bedroom

Kitchen/Parlour

Figure 25 Plan of the residence of Chief Fawole Onitiju Obalorun, in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, Feb 1974 45

The Yoruba Kingdom


1

2

Basic two room house in Aroko, Nigeria. .

Triple - module housing unit in Atiba, Nigeria.

3

Double - module rural compound in Aroko, Nigeria.

0

5

10

20m

Figure 26 Farmhouses The City

46


This content downloaded from 79.72.176.110 on Sun, 29 Mar 2020 10:24:48 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

This content downloaded from 79.72.176.110 on Sun, 29 Mar 2020 10:24:48 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

This content downloaded from 79.72.176.110 on Sun, 29 Mar 2020 10:24:48 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

Figure 27 Farmhouses 44

44

47

Vlach, ‘Affecting Architecture of the Yoruba’, p.50-51.

The Yoruba Kingdom


Chapter

48


Ilé Ife, Nigeria, as depicted in ‘Missions Builder’ from 1875.1 1

49

Missions-Bilder: Sierra Leone und Yoruba (Bereinsbuchhandlung, 1875), p.130

https://www.orishaimage.com/blog/orisha-illustration The Yoruba Kingdom


The City

50



The Kingship Today

52


3 The Kingship Today For Vlach, despite the hierarchical societal structure in ancient Yoruba traditions, there is a clear desire for intimacy. As we see visible in the architecture, designs were made to actively encourage and foster the success of the extended family. “The conflict between individual and group, and impasse between personal power and cultural restraint, is mediated by an architectural solution that is intensive and continuous in shape and form”, 45 from the humble igbo ile to the gratifying afin. ‘Places of Cultural Memory’ also suggests that, ‘Yoruba architecture is an organisation of disparate units into an interlocking whole. The compound design expresses an architecture of intimacy and encourages the success of the extended family’.46 Unimpeded contact with Western culture has fundamentally changed Yoruba towns as a whole.47 The introduction of formal education and Christianity has led to society tending towards a single family as the basic unit- “one simple family, one house”.48 The compound, which was formally built for the extended family, is now usually broken down into smaller units. This reduces the opportunity for families to support each other through child and elderly care, companionship, finances and to cultivate the family culture and traditions. Along with the status that comes with having a house with more than one storey, the landscape of the city has transformed. Architectural tastes moved to favour a Brazilian style (see image 28) after the significant influence of “repatriated Yorubas” 49 on their return to Nigeria- despite their small number. The Afro-Brazilians were skilled carpenters and masons50 and, with time, the prominent materials they used became concrete and corrugated metal. In many cases, the external family courtyard was eliminated. This not only inhibited extended family gathering but also effective ventilation, the collection of rainwater and adequate lighting conditions. Whilst the kingship still exists, the Oba’s status, position, role and prestige has greatly diminished.51 With time, the Oba could no longer call on his people to maintain and build his land. The result, added with the harsh weather conditions, caused parts of the afin to rapidly disintegrate. The Oba’s responded by constructing their own houses favouring multiple levels and more durable foreign materials in other parts of the town. Whilst these buildings still shared some of the existing characteristics of the afin, they do not provide the same advantages of collectivity and centrality. Now, the Oba’s market, if at all still present, is no longer the largest or the most profitable (see figure 29).

45

Vlach, ‘Affecting Architecture of the Yoruba’, p.53.

46

Service, ‘Places of Cultural Memory: African Reflections on the American Landscape : Conference Proceeding’, p.130.

47

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, 1966, p.81.

48

Ojo, G. J. Afolabi, 1968, p.71.

49

Freed Yoruba slaves from Brazil who still travelled on a Brazilian passport.

50

Vlach, ‘The Brazilian House in Nigeria: The Emergence of a 20th-Century Vernacular House Type’, p.6.

51

Ojo, G. J. Afolabi, 1968, p.71.

53

The Yoruba Kingdom


Figure 28 Modern view from Mokola Hills Ibadan, Oyo State.52

Figure 29 Bodija Market, Oyo State, Nigeria53

52 ‘Wennovation Hub on Twitter: “The View from Mokola Hills from over Our Office Tells It All about Ibadan: An Ancient City in Search of Solutions. We Are Here to Find, Empower and Support the Entrepreneurs Who Will Create Those Solutions. This Is Our #EverydayMotivation. #Wennovation Https://T.Co/1VwlBhN8ub” / Twitter’, Twitter <https://twitter.com/wennovation/status/963011302053634050/photo/1> [accessed 10 April 2020]. 53 ‘Tension in Ibadan Market over Alleged Boko Haram Killings - Premium Times Nigeria’, 2013 <https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/ ssouth-west/133179-tension-in-ibadan-market-over-alleged-boko-haram-killings.html> [accessed 10 April 2020].

The Kingship Today

54


Google Earth shots of some of the surviving afin reveal that they are no longer used for the same purpose (see figure 30). At Afin Ewi, we can see that the Igbamote has been transformed into a large car park; the vast afin gardens have been diminished and replaced with other buildings and only a small portion of the original afin remains. With the rapid expansion of the towns and encroachment into the afin landscape, the afin no longer sits in the centre of the town. There are many forces at play resulting in these changes, however, it is clear that the sacred space, precious to all who gather under the gaze of the Oba, is no longer there.

1923

1964

Figure 30 Transformation of afin Ewi (above right- refer to figure 13) (above left)54 (right) 55

54

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, 1966, p.86.

55 ‘Google Maps’, Google Maps <https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ado+Ekiti,+Nigeria/@7.6229998,5.2230998,561m/ data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x1047fad09891a07d:0xf38552cbf4615400!8m2!3d7.6124263!4d5.2371087?hl=en> [accessed 9 April 2020].

55

The Yoruba Kingdom


New Buildings

New Car Park

Oyo City Boundary

2020

Chapter

56


“The monumental ruin of the Oni’s palace met our gaze. We stood before the portal of the castle in the middle of an enormous square .... and made my horse climb the high flight of steps and rode through the delicately carved door of the entrance, across the courtyard and through the dilapidated colonnades with my companions. It was like an enchanted castle. It was large and noble in design, so superbly pure despite its broken lines, its mouldering to decay and the sordid exterior it now presents.”56 - Leo Frobenius (German Ethnologist 1873-1939)

56

57

Ojo, G.J.Afolabi, 1968, p71.

The Yoruba Kingdom



Conclusion In conclusion, I would like to suggest that architects building in Nigeria today consider the achievements of the past to inform building design. I would dispute the idea that a predominantly western style of storeyed buildings, deep plans and large openings (primarily constructed with mass-produced concrete and metal) are the best way to design in Western Africa (see figure 31). If the environmental and social conditions are carefully considered, perhaps such considerations could form a new hybrid of architecture shaped by the past and present circumstances. Should the architecture strive to use the contrast between the open and the communal to create a sense of internal focus and intimacy, encouraging personal involvement and collectivity? I also wonder if the communities should endeavour to build new buildings that can facilitate communal activities in a similar way to the traditional afin, whilst taking into account the evolving religious, cultural and political changes in Nigerian society. Throughout the essay, I attempt to depict architecture and sculptural art in their original environment and as they are presented out of context. It is through contextualisation that we can truly understand the purpose or intent behind a piece of art. However, removing it from its context also assists to change the perception of it, thus declaring the importance of context. The two together yield the opportunity to re-shape the narrative and understanding of an incredibly rich, diverse history.

Figure 31 (Right) ‘Alárò city, an extension of Lagos, breaks ground in Nigeria’. A proposed development by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that looks like it could be for London or Barcelona.57

57 Alárò City, an Extension of Lagos, Breaks Ground in Nigeria , Africanism, 2019 <http://africanism.net/alaro-city-an-extension-of-lagosbreaks-ground-in-nigeria/> [accessed 11 April 2020].

59

The Yoruba Kingdom


Conclusion

60


61


AFTERWORD Many past civilisations had moments of tremendous achievement and power- then it disintegrates, often as a result of the conquest of another kingdom. Despite this, when you rediscover the culture and understand priorities through the language of architecture and art, one can begin to interpret the value in what once seemed arbitrary, insignificant or strange. Although one cannot change the fact that the many of the traditional afin are gradually falling into disrepair, I want to explain how I plan to use what I have learnt. This year, my studio project looks to reclaim and democratise the notion of the traditional afin. It will facilitate the role of the many emerging counter cultures in Nigeria today which celebrate the act of gathering people together in the name of music, fashion, art and dance. In a separate endeavour, I am collaborating with a few friends to begin an animated African History project. We aim to search for and elevate some of the great African Kingdoms, focussing on those that lasted well before the continent was colonised. To do this, we will use research, such as those that I have presented in this essay, to create animated short stories which will be visibly embedded with the rich existing historical observations of past African Kingdoms. As an architecture student who knew very little about the past achievements of my heritage, I have been overjoyed to learn about the architectural history of my people. This essay has sparked a sense of pride in what I did not know. I believe that depicting and sharing a knowledge of African history, which is rooted in physical objects, images and texts that we can see today, is one way to attempt to give root to and ground us all.

62


Translations Afin - the Oba’s palace Alaafin – owner of the palace of Oyo Erin - elephant Igbo ile – flock of houses Igbamote – courtyard space at Afin Ewi where two hundred people can spread out Kobi – gabled porch Oba - king Olowo of Owo – king of Owo Oluwa – head of the wives (nationally understood to mean God) Oloris – wives of the Oba Oni of Ife – king of Ife

63

Translations


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MA Architecture 2019 - 2020 History and Theory Studies Tutor: Valerio Massaro OLUWAFOLASADEORIMI OKUNRIBIDO


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