Grenada celebrates first ever Ifa festival

Ifa festival in Grenada

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • First ever Ifa festival staged in Grenada at Corinth St David
  • Egungun and Kakilambe masqueraders part of the celebrations
  • Minister for Trade Oliver Joseph promised to establish international trade with West African countries

Grenada has moved closer to reconnect the island and its people to its African roots through the staging of the first ever Ifa festival. The Ifa Festival is a 7-day event which focuses on one of the principal deities of the Yoruba people. Yoruba is a group of cultures linked by a common language. They occupied an area bounded by the Niger River and including what is now known as the Benin Republic, southwestern Nigeria, and part of Togo.

The Ifa festival in Grenada was organised by Iya Ifatooki Yvonne Drakes, who was initiated in the spiritual practice of Ifa in 2016. The festival started with a week of activities last Sunday, 22 July 2018 in Corinth St David and concluded on Saturday, 28 July 2018. Officiating over the festival was priest Ifakolade Atinumo from Nigeria who carries the title Araba, which is the title of the head diviner in Yoruba tradition. It is considered a tradition for participants to wear white during the Ifa celebration as a sign of respect to their ancestors.

During the celebration itself, masqueraders such as Egungun and Kakilambe adorned with decorations assist the traditional worshipers by dancing and chanting prayers and making offerings to Ifa and Osun together with the sound of traditional African drums as part of the Yoruba way of life.

Iya Ifatooki Yvonne Drakes

Reaffirming her faith in the significance of Ifa, Drakes said she intends on securing land to establish a shrine in Grenada dedicated to the worship of Ifa and the spread of African consciousness to unite people of African descent. “In order for us to unite, we must have something to unite around and that is where Ifa comes in. My aim is to teach the younger generation about their culture, therefore, we are in the process of securing a piece of property where we can establish a shrine in honour of our African ancestors.”

In his address, priest Ifakolade Atinumo reiterated the need for Grenada and the region to reconnect with their African heritage. “I implore upon you African people to take hold of your some of your old time spiritual beliefs, reach back and grab the hand of your African brothers and sisters because it is the reaching back that we will move forward. We need to start thinking about starting businesses in Africa and acquire land and hold on to the land and build on it otherwise you will have people from other races coming and take advantage of what should be ours.”

Egungun masqueraders are regarded as the collective spirits of the Ancestors who occupy a space in heaven, hence they are called dwellers of heaven.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Minister for Trade Oliver Joseph promised to establish international trade with West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana following a visit to Lomé, Togo where he attended the 79 ACP Ministers Meeting in Lomé to discuss Strategy for New Accord with the EU. “I believe we need closure collaboration with our African brothers and sisters and develop diplomatic relations especially to facilitate trade, because I was sitting next to the Ghana minister for trade and he said why doesn’t Grenada sell all our spices to us, why we only sell to places like Europe and why can’t Africa sell their coffee to Grenada and the Caribbean, but we are the ones to make that happen as ministers for trade.”

The diety Ifa (also known as Orunmila) is an oracle of divinity and is regarded as the all-knowing deity as it is consulted on virtually all matters according to Yoruba tradition and it is believed to provide solutions where necessary.

Ifa festival participant

Ifa balances on 3 essential pillars; Olodumare (Creator), Orisha (Nature Spirits), and the Ancestors. The Supreme Being, Olodumare, is a benevolent deity that created the universe. It is without gender and is not an active participant in the affairs of living humans. The religion of Ifa is characterised by a deep sense of the interdependence of all life and elements of nature and it helps to synchronise all the universal energies called Orisa (“oh – ree – sha”) that comprise the Universe.

Ancestral worship is an integral part during the celebration of Ifa and the mysteries and teachings of Ifa revealed in prophecy are contained in a body of scriptures called Odu.

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