Osifekunde

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Life mask of Osifekunde commissioned by Pascal d’Avezac-Macaya around 1838

Osifekunde of Ijebu (born circa 1795[1]) was an Ijebu man whose documented narrative, as a victim of The Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, serves as one of the earliest Western records of Yoruba land.[2]

Early life

Osifekunde was from Epe, Ijebu Ode but was born in Makun, a suburb of Sagamu in about 1795. His father was Adde Sonlou, an Ijebu warrior who fled Makun as a result of a skirmish resulting in the death of another warrior. In addition to time in Epe as a result of his father Sonlou's asylum, Osifekunde spent time in the Kingdom of Benin. Osifekunde's grandfather was Ochi-Wo who held the office of Ladeke.[3]

Victim of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade

Osifekunde was about 20 years old (approximately 1810) when Ijaw pirates captured him in the Niger Delta lagoon and sold him to Brazilian slave merchants.[1]

Meeting with Pascal d’Avezac-Macaya in Paris

About 20 years after Osifekunde was forcibly transferred to Brazil, he accompanied his master (one Mr. Navarre) to Paris where he was employed as a servant and went by the names ‘Joaquim’ and ‘Joseph’. In Paris he happened upon Pascal d’Avezac-Macaya, an ethnographer and vice-president of the Societe Ethnologique of Paris, who had a keen interest in Africa. Pascal d’Avesac-Macaya interviewed Osifekunde (in pidgin Portuguese since Osifekunde spoke little or no French at the time) for weeks and Osifekunde’s recollection of Ijebu Ode and Lagos (published by Pascal d’Avezac-Macay in 1845) became an important addition to European knowledge of the Guinea Coast.[3][4]

Pascal d’Avesac-Macaya arranged for Osifekunde to move to Sierra Leone (then a British colony established as a home for captives liberated by the West Africa Squadron) but Osifekunde didn’t take the offer and according to P.C. Lloyd “preferred servitude under his former master in Brazil, where he could be with his own son”.[5] There are no accounts of Osifekunde after his chance encounter with Pascal d’Avezac-Macaya.

Seemingly frustrated by the transient nature of his encounter with Osifekunde, Pascal d’Avezac-Macay wrote:

“Let me bring these disconnected pages to a close, a hasty collection of incomplete data drawn from an unexpected source [Osifekunde] and one that too soon became silent. Especially during my work of coordination I have become conscious of many important gaps that remain to be filled; but I no longer have Osifekunde to answer my questions, and I can only offer the results of our long and often fruitless conversations” [3]

References

  1. ^ a b Lovejoy, Paul. Civilian Casualties in the Context of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. In:Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa by Laband. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 32–33. ISBN 9780313335402. 
  2. ^ Curtin, Phillip D. (1967). Africa remembered; narratives by West Africans from the era of the slave trade. University of Wisconsin Press, 1967. p. 7. 
  3. ^ a b c Lloyd, P.C. Osifekunde of Ijebu. In Curtin. Africa remembered; narratives by West Africans from the era of the slave trade. Ed. University of Wisconsin Press, 1967. pp. 217–288. 
  4. ^ I. A. Akinjogbin (1998). War and Peace in Yorubaland, 1793-1893. Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria), (University of Michigan). p. 488. ISBN 9789781294976. 
  5. ^ John Laband (2007). Daily Lives of Civilians in Wartime Africa: From Slavery Days to Rwandan Genocide Daily Life Through History. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313335402. 
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