Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village
Sheldon, South Carolina
The Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village covers 27 acres and has, well, we don't know exactly how many citizens (5 to 9 families in the last ten years, according to one tipster). Oyotunji is not part of the United States, according to King (Oba) Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, who founded it in 1970 and moved it to its present site near Sheldon because its old neighbors complained about the tourists.
Oyotunji literature pictures its happy residents dressed in colorful, flowing robes. On our brief visit we saw only people dressed like average South Carolinians. But the people of Oyotunji do live in the woods, surrounded by exotic concrete monuments, and they have a royal palace. In its courtyard stands the mausoleum of Orisamola Awolowo, one of the founding fathers of Oyotunji, who died in 1990.
Adesoye Adeyini wrote to us: "His Royal Highness, Oba Adefunmi I (iba ara torun, roughly translated as 'rest in peace') joined the ancestors on February 11, 2005. In Yoruba culture, the king is not announced as dead, but as having 'gone up the ceiling' (Oba wo aja).
"It is important to note that the Oba was the first African-American to ever be initiated into the priesthood and initiation cult of any African traditional religion. Furthermore, he did not start his own religion and there is no separation between Yoruba culture and religion... the religion is one part of the whole culture. Religion, arts, philosophy, etc. are all things that create culture."