The Effect of Colonialism on the Oba

Carolyn Greely'92 (English 32, 1989)

At the turn of this century, as a result of unimpeded contact with Western culture, life in the Afins underwent dramatic changes. The Afins themselves have been dwarfed by the many mansions built by the wealthy cocoa farmers, politicians, traders, and corporations. The important cash crops, cocoa in particular, went through an economic boom during the 1940s, causing an influx of wealth to a small sector of the population. The towns expanded beyond the town walls, often in irregular directions, so that the Afin no longer lies in the center of most towns. The significance of the Afin has dwindled not only physically, but religiously as well. Churches and town halls have been built away from the Afin. The quality of the modern alterations of the Afins has deteriorated so drastically that it no longer is considered a community museum.

The wealth of the Obas has disintegrated as well. No longer do they benefit from free labor (in the recent past, all divorced women were forced to reside in the Afin under the watchful eye of the Oba, and during this time they cleaned and performed other duties). The craftwork of the Yoruba has deteriorated, so the Oba no longer collects those gifts. He is no longer permitted to impound properties, and so the Oba cannot support such large numbers of wives, children, and servants. Because of a dearth of funds, many apartments of the Afins have been shut down. Despite the changes in the Afins, they still represent much of the traditional culture of the Yoruba people, and therefore many town councils allot funds for the upkeep of the palaces.

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