A non-profit organisation, Yoruba Cultural Center Dallas Inc, was established earlier this year to promote the language, history and culture of the Yoruba people in the United States and worldwide, with Dr Oladele Olusanya, a medical doctor, author and artist, as its founding Director and first President.
He tells The Sun Literary Review in an e-chat from Dallas, Texas, “It has been my goal for the past decade to do all in my power to help others of like mind to revive and preserve Yoruba language and culture for the benefit of young people, not only in our homeland in Western Nigeria, but in the so-called black Diaspora in Europe and North America.”
“This is why I wrote my book, Gods and Heroes, which, as you know, was launched in Lagos in March this year. The book is now available online on Amazon, and in several bookstores in Nigeria: in Lagos, at Quintessence, Midrim Gallery, Jazzhole and Glendora; and in Ibadan, at Odusote, Booksellers Ltd and UI Bookshop. This is the first book of the “Itan – legends of the golden age” trilogy which tells the 1,000 year story of the Yoruba people with a unique blend of myth, history and imagination.”
The Yoruba Cultural Centre offers several programmes to the Dallas community that are beneficial to, especially young people, both Yoruba and non-Yoruba. These include a Yoruba language school, classes that teach the talking drum, and scholarships for college-bound high school students. “We also seek to integrate the African-American community into the African worldview within the Yoruba cultural fabric, by emphasising our commonality of origin and heritage. The flagship programme of the Yoruba Cultural Center is the Yoruba Art and Heritage Museum, the first if its kind in North America, he hints.
The official launching of the Center and its landmark Museum will be in February 2021, to mark Black History Month, with the Mayor of Dallas as a Special Guest. Dr Olusanya says the African-American community is intrigued by the images in the Museum which tells the story of the Yoruba people from the time of ancient hero-kings, like Oduduwa and Oranmiyan, to modern legends like Obafemi Awolowo and Wole Soyinka. However, the audience of the Yoruba Cultural Centre is not restricted to Dallas, but global, going by a series of enquiries from different continents.
The groundbreaking Yoruba Art and Heritage Museum is a first class museum that houses a collection of original artworks, paintings and sculptures along with other cultural artifacts, ranging from everyday Yoruba wear and egungun attire to presentations of Yoruba cultural traditions from marriage to isomoloruko.
“The original artworks in the Museum, mainly oil and acrylic paintings on canvas, depict the Yoruba story with images and portraits of the Yoruba people from the mythological age of Oduduwa, Oranmiyan and Moremi to the modern era. The Museum is intended to be a true cultural center with lots of activities, shows and cultural events year round. The space is also available to individuals and groups to hold events such as photoshoots, fashion shows, book launching and other events.”
Right now, the Museum occupies a space of about 4,000 square feet. Dr Olusanya says, “But, as our collection increases, we are going to need more space in the future, at which time we may need to purchase land to build our own uniquely designed facility.” The Yoruba Cultural Center exists to educate and inform, hence, the Yoruba language school curriculum is aimed at children and adults with limited exposure and knowledge of the Yoruba tongue. “At the end of the 12 week beginner’s course, we expect the student to be able to use enough Yoruba expressions and idioms to understand and be understood by a native speaker of the language,” says Dr. Olusanya. It also has a library of books by Yoruba authors, ranging from Odunjo and Fagunwa to Ogundele, the author of Ibu Olokun, a classic of Yorubaland.
“Our next plan is a Reading Room where young and old can spend pleasant hours perusing works of fiction, as well as reference books on the history, language and art of the Yoruba people. We also plan to partner with local colleges and universities to integrate our Museum offerings and educational services into a standard academic curriculum for the teaching of Yoruba language, history and traditions in their institutions. Our goal is to make the academic study of Yoruba history and language a worthwhile pursuit for students and scholars in American universities, ” says the Director of the Yoruba Cultural Centre.
Admission to the Yoruba Cultural Centre is free for all children aged 18 years and below. For adult visitors, each person is required to pay $20 per visit. The Centre also encourages people to be subscribing members, which will allow them to pay a small annual fee that allows them access and admission to the Museum and the other activities and events in the Center at any time all year. Group tours are offered discounts, while payment can be made beforehand online with a credit card on our website, on location at the Center.
“The rules for visitors are similar to those at top rate museums and galleries all over the world – no noise, food or drinks; and no touching or handling of the art works and cultural exhibits,” he adds. Intersteingly, the Yoruba Cultural Center has African Americans on its Board of Directors.
As a pubic charity, the Yoruba Cultural Center depends entirely on donations from individuals and groups to maintain its Museum and carry out all its programmes and activities, using innovative ways for fundraising, “We appeal to everyone anywhere in the world to support us with a donation on our website,” he solicits.
Dr Olusanya is upbeat about the future. “The future is very bright indeed for the Center and its vision of a resurgence in interest in the language and traditional culture of the Yoruba people,” he says. “It is very important for people in Nigeria and other parts of the world with a love for Yoruba art and culture to support the activities of the Yoruba Cultural Center. Though the Center is located physically in Dallas, Texas, it has a global reach. One of the official Sponsors of the Yoruba Cultural Center is Prince Yemisi Shyllon, owner of the Yemisi Shyllon Museum of Art at Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos State. What he and our other supporters realise is that what is at stake is the future of our language, traditional arts and culture, which like many others on the African continent, face the threat of irrelevance and extinction due to foreign influences among our young people and cultural domination from Europe and North America.”
He emphasises, “Luckily for us, the current political turmoil in Nigeria has shown the importance of unity and the maintenance of a cultural identity for the Yoruba people. The Yoruba Cultural Center intends to be the champion for the cultural revival of Yoruba language, culture and traditional lifestyles, even as efforts are made in the political sphere to unite Yorubas geographically and politically either as an autonomous region in the current Nigerian federation or as independent nation-state, in which the Yoruba people will live side by side in harmony with other ethnic groups in the west African subcontinent. Peaceful cultural coexistence of all people is our watchword. If you want to know more about what we do, please, visit www.yorubacenter.org,” he says.