Obatala Shrine

The Yoruba People of Southwest Nigeria

It is often written that the Yoruba people of Southwest Nigeria are one of the most interesting and important peoples of Africa and that no African group has had greater influence on New World culture.

Yoruba People

This influence persists dramatically as Yoruba religious tradition, remains the world's most prevalent religion of African origin, increasingly practiced in slightly varying forms throughout South America, the Caribbean, the United States of America and Europe.

While many experts say that the Yoruba migrated to what is now Nigeria (where they founded the holy city of Ile-Ife) in approximately seven hundred AD, other authorities trace their origins as far back as one thousand BC in the Sudan. But on the other hand, traditional Yoruba religious mythology holds that in primordial times a deity known as Obatala descended from Heaven to a water laden earth, spread a handful of soil that would form the continents, and settled onto a spot that would later be called Ile-Ife. Obeying his mandate from God himself, Obatala molded from clay the very first human beings at that very place. Following his return to heaven, Obatala's immediate descendants began to maintain a shrine for the very structure in which they themselves were created from-clay, and where God, first gave men and women his greatest gift, the breath of life. Thereafter, members of the family were (and still are) installed as priests, responsible for remembering the intricate and poetic commemorative ceremonies of their ancestor, Obatala, Father of Mankind, the god of creation, perfection, purity, piety, and peace. Some say that the Yoruba people, indeed human existence itself, started in this building in a lowly quarter of Ile-Ife, the spiritual center of the Yoruba World.

Today, the tradition of this largely unknown caste of priests, said to be the direct descendants of Obatala, continues. Overlooked and even forgotten by their neighbors who desperately search for relevance in the "modern world", the devotees of Obatala dutifully carry out highly poetic rituals that, in their words, maintain the sacrament of creation, on earth. The Obatala Shrine in Ile-Ife can easily be seen as one of the most significant monuments to African civilization and thought, comparable to Jerusalem or Mt Olympus in the world's cultural history.


The present keepers of the shrine are elderly members of an old, considers it their inherited duty to maintain the rituals of the Father of Mankind. They are dedicated. Their philosophical understanding is as thorough and as sophisticated as any other of the world's classical sources of wisdom. They are largely unaware of their potential significance to the rest of the world. They are like monks in the most literal sense. They quietly and humbly labor in the name of God.

It is for this reason that The Society for the Preservation of Traditional African Culture seeks to source the necessary funds to restore this ancient landmark as a monument to African spiritual and philosophical thought. Our goal is to raise a total of $400,000 to provide for the complete restoration of the shrine and to institute facilities and activities that will bring sufficient income to assure the continuing maintenance of the Obatala Palace Shrine.

The Yoruba People

The Yoruba are one of the largest ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa and one of the most important owing to the impact their art, culture and religion has had not only on Africa, but on the world.

They are an ancient people with roots that date as far back as one thousand BC and were the rulers of the great Oyo kingdom, a West African empire that stretched from Southwest Nigeria to Zaire and Sudan. From the city of Ile-Ife a great cultural and philosophical tradition began which has fascinated historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, artists, and other students of Africa till this very day. In modern times they provided the political leadership that stroked the fires of Nigerian nationalism during the era of European colonization.

The Yoruba traditions of bronze casting and wood sculpture, theatre, and other art forms date back over a thousand years and prove the sophistication of the African in arts and crafts. Traditional Yoruba religion is based on the worship of a supreme deity called Olodumare and various deities known as the Orisa. Traditional Yoruba religion is the root religion of Candomble in Brazil, Santeria in Cuba, and Yoruba religious practices in the African-American community in the United States of America.

The Society for the Preservation of Traditional African Culture

The Society for the Preservation of Traditional African Culture (SPTYC) was formed out of a need to ensure that the rich cultural heritage of Africa, of which Yoruba traditions are a prime example, are not lost to the world. Currently cultural festivals, lectures, and exchanges between various Yoruba cultural centers throughout the world are just some of the ways that the society joins with others in helping to promote and preserve Yoruba culture and history.