A ‘student’ of Ifa (a divination system and Yoruba religion), and Yoruba culture advocate, Funmilayo Fakankun, tells BLESSING ENENAITE about her study of the religion and other issues
What influenced your decision to study Ifa and what have you understood about it so far?
I was born and raised a Christian. I am a very curious person, and I had so many questions, but there weren’t many answers. When I got to the stage where I could travel and make findings on my own, I started doing so. However, I did not go far into (studying) Ifa until 2020 when I met a couple of people who were traditionalists, and I was fascinated, because it (Ifa) became more relatable and closer to home.
Formally, I started learning about Ifa in 2022. I have learnt so far that it teaches that life is in circles. Also, it made me know that what one does is what one gets, and that one’s reward and punishment is here on earth. It solidified my faith in reincarnation, and I do not believe in hellfire. The philosophical aspect of Ifa is insightful and very beautiful.
Do you still practise Christianity or Ifa?
I am not blending any religion with the other. I am still exploring the possibility of practising Ifa. I am not against Christianity. However, I stopped going to church sometime ago. I found Ifa and embraced it.
You are currently an independent researcher of Yoruba culture, philosophy and spirituality. What are your major findings?
I am now more aware of my identity as a Yoruba lady. Also, it has helped me to understand a lot of things about my history, because it is expository.
It helped me to understand nature and life altogether. It makes me see things from a new and deeper perspective. Ifa is a personal spiritual guide, although I don’t really know how to chant very well yet.
Do you have a place where you learn how to chant or you learn independently?
I learnt independently, but there is a particular place where I learn it. Also, I do my own research. I read books on Ifa and I also consult babalawos (high priests of the Ifa oracle) who have been educating me on Ifa.
You describe yourself as a writer. What are some of your works?
For now, I am still gathering my content, because I just started writing content on Yoruba history, philosophy, culture and spirituality. Most of my works are not yet out but once in a while, I put them on social media, though not in their full forms.
I will also describe myself as a teacher.
Do you teach Yoruba language or Ifa?
I am not teaching the language. I teach people about Yoruba history. We are so lost, especially this generation, to the extent that some people do not know their family history. Some people do not know the oriki (praise poetry) of their families. It is that bad. Meanwhile, it is in the oriki that one can discover oneself. Some people do not know the history of their hometowns. That is why I am educating people on how their hometowns were founded, and the things that happened there. It is not just about spirituality alone. I am more focused on the culture, tradition and philosophy of the Yoruba tribe.
It has been said that the use of indigenous languages in Nigeria is gradually dwindling, as many persons cannot speak their dialects fluently. What do you think is the practicable solution to this issue?
It is quite unfortunate. It is one of the burdens I have on my shoulders. My late grandmother insisted that all her grandchildren must know how to speak, read and write Yoruba.
As I grew older, and in order to feel accepted, I started learning how to speak English to the extent that I lost my ability to communicate very well in Yoruba.
The solution is that everyone should be intentional about the next generation. There should be a careful plan, so that children of the next generation do not inherit this challenge. We need more Yoruba teachers and content, even on social media. Let people start learning it now. If not, the language will be lost.
You studied Biology at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. Did you ever practise what you learnt in the university?
My love for religion started when I was in school. I knew that I wanted to study more about religion. After I graduated, I went into a business venture and I also started researching on various topics, other than spirituality. It was in 2020 that I started researching about religion and spirituality. Then, I narrowed it down to philosophy and culture.
What feedback do you get when you tell people that you are an Ifa adherent?
It is quite different. My dad attends Deeper Christian Life Ministry. When I told him, he was shocked and disappointed, because he felt he did not raise me that way. I made him understand that this is what I want to do.
For other people in my family and friends, I have a way of explaining to them without being rude. That makes them see reason with my decision. Most of my friends are now interested. It is not that they want to practice it, but they are now reading books on Ifa. When they have any question, they call me. I have influenced the minds of people and sparked their curiosity. Nobody has called to insult me so far. Some people don’t want to hear anything about Ifa, and I try to respect their views. When I get curious questions, I educate people to let them know that Ifa is not demonic or about idolatry.
Does your dress sense also depict your culture?
I love to dress casually. I am not a typical ‘iro and buba’ person. I wear a lot of ankara but I travel a lot. I can’t be wearing ‘iro and buba’ everywhere. I need to look casual sometimes, and I wear jeans when I am going to certain places.