Morenike Olabunmi's most recent film, a 60-minute documentary, Her Spirit Was for Dancing, will be screened on Friday, January 11, 2013, 7 p.m., at Scribe Video Center, 4212 Chestnut Street, 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA. Her Spirit chronicles the death rituals performed for Phyllis Gordon, a 92-year old Etu member and Yoruba descendant, who appeared in Morenike’s award winning film Etu & Nago: The Yoruba Connection. In Her Spirit, the deceased is honored with age-old African celebrations which involve the community and a Christian funeral. An intimate look into the coexistence of African and Christian traditions in Jamaica, Her Spirit is provocative and poignant.
Etu & Nago: The Yoruba Connection is the story of a select group of Jamaicans living in the western parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland whose Yoruba/Nago ancestors arrived in Jamaica as indentured servants during the 1840s. The backdrop to this story is Jamaica, once a colony dotted with sugarcane plantations and populated by enslaved Africans from West and Central Africa. It was home to the first Maroons to sign a treaty of freedom with their British colonizers.
After the emancipation of African enslavement in the British colonies in 1834, slavers bound for Brazil and Cuba were captured and taken to Sierra Leone, West Africa, where their human cargo was released. This action bankrupted many plantation owners in the Caribbean. After the vestiges of slavery were completely abolished, African recaptives in Sierra Leone were lured into migrating to Caribbean islands as indentured servants. They were promised ongoing contact with relatives on the African continent and a return ticket home at the end of their tenure. However, these promises were never kept except to a small group of Africans in Jamaica who protested and agitated until they were granted passage home.
Stranded Africans raised families and finally died in Jamaica. Nigerian Yoruba/Nago were among these immigrants. Some of them settled in the parish of Westmoreland and named the place Abeokuta in memory of their hometown in Nigeria. Descendants of other Yoruba who were located in the parish of Hanover preserved their forefathers’ legacy in their Etu ritual. This ceremony of thanksgiving and supplication to the ancestral spirits is a vital link to the past from which their forefathers were rudely uprooted.