Yoruba Myth as source for the 2018 OAU-Ife Logo Design.

The Logo for the 2018 OAU-Ife Festival was designed by Mr. Akin Adejuwon, with special consultation from Professor Wole Soyinka who always had a clear grasp of the Festival’s concept. The inspiration for visuals of the logo produced by Akin Adejuwon came from a mythical story told by the Ooni of Ife in February 2018 about the evolution of aboriginal Ife kings of pre-Oduduwa era. During pre-historic times, Ife had evolved a kingship system. The first known of these Kings is “Oba je’ gi, je’ gi. The Oba was so named after the predominant diet of the people. It was said that the people of that period had only wood as food and consequently experienced high mortality rate from malnourishment as wood was unable to provide the nutrients needed for survival.

This situation resulted in an uproar that ushered in another Oba, “Oba j’omi, j’ omi”. This Oba was also named after the people’s diet at the time. Though the people, this time, survived a bit longer than in the preceding era of Oba je’ gi, je’ gi, nonetheless they were not delivered from perishing. Death on a large and constant level persisted because water still served as inadequate nourishment. The failure of Oba j’ omi, j’ omi and the rise of the next Oba who devised the means to plant the root of the wood bore isu (yam tuber). The Oba proceeded further to incorporate the food (omi) of the immediate past oba i.e. Oba j’omi, j’omi into the diet of the people, though the people were barely surviving, they never managed to thrive.

The ingenuity of this Oba blossomed as he further built upon his ideal food quest. He consolidated upon his achievements by adding salt from the sea, palm oil to the existing diet of yam and water. The physiology of the Oba and his people adapted well to this invention of the Oba and thus eliminated death from malnutrition. The Oba was subsequently named “Oba je’su, j’ epo, je’yo” and became popular as the saviour Oba who made Ife thrive.

This story informed the design of the logo as a symbolic representation of the Oba je’su, j’ epo, je’yo as the theme of the festival. The relationship between food, survival and development as encapsulated in the Ife mythology typifies the festival theme: “Food and Identity”. The challenge however remained on how to adequately represent yam, palm oil and salt on an Ife kingship symbol in the most appropriate way to avoid ambiguity misrepresentation.

To solve this problem, we decided to use the Ori Olokun naturalistic head, which is one of the most iconic representations of the Ife/Yoruba kingship all over the world. The use of the head is significant because the head i.e. “ori” is a very significant part of Yoruba philosophy and world view as it also encapsulates human destiny. Hence the Ori Olokun head represents the Ife/Yoruba people and their kingship system. The scarification marks all over the face is a feature which was associated with early Ife people and as such a form of identity.

One of the several Ori-Olokun iconic heads was selected on the basis of clarity of available images and the angle of shot of the portrait. Instead of using all the usual royal emblems on the crown, it was more appropriate to use a food crop that is symbolic to the Yoruba and at the same time resonates with the theme of the festival.

The yam tuber, which is what readily comes to mind from the oba j’esu, j’epo, j’eyo was however difficult to capture without disambiguation, it was therefore replaced by the maize, another staple crop that is easily identified with the people of the region. Hence, the meaning of the logo posits that, if the Ori Olokun is an icon for the Yoruba race, then the maize is an emblem placed on the crown, identifies the Yoruba race through its food.

The stalks on the branch were arrived at through a search for an alternative crop representing staple food, hence- that provides identity for the Yoruba race. The “Agbanyun” fruit (berries) which was an idea proffered by Professor Wole Soyinka was finally chosen because of its popularity among the Yoruba until very recently. The “agbanyun” fruit (a kind of food sweetener) provided a sort of food identity for the Yoruba, it is however unfortunate that this clearly beloved fruit is fast disappearing from our landscapes and has become largely unknown to today’s youths.

It is therefore not surprising that Professor Wole Soyinka recently made an observation that the ‘agbanyun’ which we have discarded is fast being embraced and making waves on plantations in the USA and is currently under consideration as alternative to sugar. This goes a long way to prove the importance of our indigenous crops and the necessity for us to embrace them with fierce pride and also start the revival of those rare and disappearing traditional and indigenous foods.