Wednesday 6 November 2013

Our little gods with diplomatic immunity

Home and away
Times I have wondered about the richness of Yoruba culture thriving in lands far away from West Africa in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, in Cuba and in Haiti.
Extricated by the atrocity of slavery, men carted as beasts of labour and burden to enrich imperialist regimes and kingdoms of the last three centuries, the stories are gruesome.
However, what intrigues me more is the little gods that went in the hearts and the minds of our people to these places, the Orishas – spirits and deities that never died, but thrived, Yoruba religion lives.
Our common humanity
This is however, a subset of humanity’s spirituality, all people from all the ends of the world carry their little gods and idols around with them such that no matter how far they are from their original lands nor how long they have been away for generations, these idols and charms remain significant with at least a remnant.
Somehow, the somewhat fashionable trends towards humanism, atheism or New Age religions appear to be people uprooted from the core of their ancestral existence, finding new commonality with a different kind of diversity.
This is not just evident in animist and ancient non-establishment spirituality and religion but we find this in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other broader based religions.
Stranger still
I step out of my residence in London into a major street with six different mushroom churches of Nigerian origin, the crowds creating the familiarity of ceremony, culture, ritual, liturgy and community far away from home.
Two years ago, a Zambian pastor wrote of what he uncharitably termed Nigerian Religious Junk exported to other countries, I could see what he meant.
A big hold
However, I suddenly realised that my appreciation of the reach of little gods was stunted when a British man of Nigerian origin showed off his amulets tucked under his clothes; in the process the lie about lost cultures was debunked.
The charms, the concoctions, the incantations or even the syncretism manifest in what we believe are the established belief systems find firm believers where we rarely expect to see them.
The little gods of spirituality and beliefs, known and strange, still hold sway and never die through the generations. No effect of civilisation damaging as it might seem today at the original homes and grottos of these little gods can destroy their potency as exiled or immigrant little gods who need no papers to live and multiply in foreign lands, they have diplomatic immunity.

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