On March 19, 2023, the highly-revered monarch and custodian of the Yoruba culture and tradition worldwide, His Majesty Oba Adeyeye Babatunde Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II CFR (the Ooni of Ifé), declared Quilombola a Yoruba territory. He delivered the title in a ceremony performed at the Quilombola region in Brazil, the first outside Africa to receive a certificate of Yoruba heritage.
The traditional ruler and his entourage arrived in Bahia, Brazil, amid tumultuous chants from the inhabitants who have a direct ancestral link to Africa via the slavery regime that lasted for several decades in Brazil and was abolished in 1888.
The recognition is among the current efforts of the Yoruba Kingdom to bridge the gap between the Yoruba race and the rest of the world through cultural integration. The event, which marked an epoch in the history of the African descendants in Brazil, elicited joy amongst the communities that make up the Quilombola territory. They celebrated the historic milestone that will strengthen the territory’s Yoruba history, culture, and language.
“The Quilombola was recognized for having received and welcomed Yoruba people, who were enslaved and forcibly removed from their base in Nigeria during the era of the slave trade in Africa, the recognition of Quilombola as Yoruba territory is another step in the fight for respect for African history,” The Guardian reported.
In his address, the Ooni of Ifé stated that the rich history of the territory dated back in time and the recent recognition as Yoruba ethnic territory would not only preserve the culture and history of the region; but will help it grow abundantly, give the African Brazilians a sense of belonging, and foster the development of the communities in all spheres of life.
“This event is a very big one for me because I am passionate about preserving the Yorubas’ culture and its deep-rooted values. This event will lay precedence for the Yoruba language and its culture to be more acceptable globally. You can see the excitement on their faces. Their Babalawo’s are well grounded in the teachings of Ifa and can render the Odu-Ifa and its panegyrics like our Ifa Priest do in Nigeria. They hold our gods like Sango, Ogun, Yemoja, and Obatala in high esteem,” said Ooni of Ifé.
“They have designated days to celebrate these gods with colorful displays infused with plenty aesthetics. They also speak Yoruba which is one thing I love about them. It’s very essential to harmonize them and also show solidarity that we are part of them and they are part of us. This will foster good bilateral trade between Brazil and Nigeria and it will also put the Yoruba culture at an advantage.”
The Quilombolas are the Afro-Brazilian residents in the Quilombo settlements established by the descendants of African slaves who escaped from slave plantations in the slavery era.
As of 2016, about 294 villages or settlements have applied for recognition as Quilombolas. According to The Wilson Center and Brazil Institute, Quilmbola communities represent 2.5% of the Brazilian population. Most are family farmers, also extracting natural resources from their territories for survival.
The majority of them live in rural areas, with their lands collectively owned. The communities are organized under associations, which act as decision-making bodies. 45.8% of the inhabitants live in extreme poverty conditions. The Quilombola communities rank below the national average in access to services and education.