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About the Filmmaker
Meet Morenike Olabunmi, a Jamaican-born independent filmmaker, writer, and researcher. Her widely - known documentary, Etu & Nago: The Yoruba Connection, illumines the story of Yoruba/Nago descendants in Jamaica, West Indies, and received many awards, including Best Documentary Shoot and Jurors Choice Award.
After discovering the influence her work made, she followed up with the production of Her Spirit Was For Dancing, also shot in Jamaica, which records the death rituals practiced by Yoruba descendants there. Olabunmi continues to document the lives of the people she meets in her travels. Her recent short films shot in South Africa and Nigeria are in post-production.
Along with her film work, Olabunmi created Emerging African Cinema, a film course where college students explore Africa’s culture, politics, and history through the films of prolific African filmmakers. As a lecturer, Olabunmi has presented her work in the United States, Jamaica, Cuba, and Nigeria on the influence of African traditional expression in Jamaican culture. Olabunmi earned a BFA and an MA in Cinema Studies from the School of Visual Arts and College of Staten Island, New York City.
In addition to her lecture circuit, Olabunmi directed and produced Wattle an’ Daub, a cable program on Brooklyn Community Access Television, which showcased multifaceted services for children in New York City. She served as production consultant for Osuntoki Mojisola’s, Osun: Her Worship, Her Powers. Olabunmi’s photographs are featured in numerous Yoruba Calendars, and in books such as Marguerite R. Curtin’s The Story of Hanover: A Jamaican Parish, and The Story of Westmoreland: A Jamaican Parish. Her artwork was also used for the cover of The Healing Power of Sacrifice by Araba Ifayemi Elebuibon.
Olabunmi’s philosophy has been to use all available media to illuminate Africa’s contribution to world society. "As a student of African folklore I'm interested in its use in culture, its manifestations of expressive forms in both traditional and modern societies in which the themes, symbols, and protocol that permeate traditional life occupy new positions, or occur in different occasions in everyday life both on the African continent and in the African diaspora."
She currently resides in Pennsylvania where she continues her work to bring Africa’s beautiful and impressive culture into lives around the world.
MORENIKE . PHOTO J. T. SMITHOLABUNMI,
Directing and producing the documentary Etu & Nago: The Yoruba Connection was an act of faith. It became a burning desire after discovering that Nigeria, West Africa and Jamaica, West Indies had locales that shared the same name — Abeokuta. As a Jamaican who had climbed to the top of Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Nigeria, I felt drawn to learn more about the inhabitants of Abeokuta and other towns in Jamaica where the citizens had visible ties to Nigeria.
Etu & Nago: The Yoruba Connection bears witness to the endurance of ancestral memory against time, distance and bondage. Spending countless hours with the film’s subjects and observing their undying faith in and love for the traditional ways of their forefathers, I developed a deep respect for these individuals who have managed to preserve such a vital part of their heritage. Independently researching, directing and producing this project was a race against time because the majority of the film’s participants are in their seventies and eighties. These elders who have nurtured traditional forms of cultural expressions must have their knowledge recorded before they die and the wisdom of the irreplaceable past is lost in antiquity. —MORENIKE OLABUNMI
House of Oosaala Productions was conceived in 1997 as a platform for disseminating media relevant to African people on the African continent and in the African diaspora. Using media as a tool for celebrating African cultural continuums in new world realities, our mission is to provide a fertile space for thought-provoking engagement linking African people together as a global village.
Founded in Brooklyn, New York, by award-winning filmmaker and educator Morenike Olabunmi, House of Oosaala Productions is now based in Philadelphia. Olabunmi has traveled extensively in new world communities in Jamaica, Cuba, and United States, as well as on the African continent in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Togo, the Republic of Benin, and Burkina Faso. She is drawn to the similarities in patterns to how African people communicate, socialize, do business, use herbs for healing, and prepare food across language, place, and time.
House of Oosaala Productions’ most prominent film, 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. 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. 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 is home to the first Maroons to sign a treaty of freedom with their British colonizers.
Using the powerful, visual medium of film, House of Oosaala Productions aims to create thought –provoking, educational resources that will impact and inspire the modern world.