Devotees of West African Faith Gather Near San Bernardino

August 31, 2008

Author: David Olson

Source: The Press Enterprise

The sounds of chanting, drumming and traditional West African music streamed Saturday afternoon from a backyard near San Bernardino, as about 100 people gathered for the biggest festival of the Orisa religion in southern California.

The yard belongs to two of the West Coast's best-known Orisa leaders: Nigerian-born Chief Fama, author of several books on Orisa devotion and publisher of a quarterly Orisa newspaper, and her husband, Chief Ifabowale Sohma Somadhi.

The two run a store in San Bernardino that sells articles for Orisa ceremonies.

The afternoon began with prayers, chanting and devotional drumming in a large bamboo-walled shrine in the couple's yard. The prayers were to Orisa spirits, conduits to communicate with Olodumare, the name for God in the Yoruba language of West Africa.

The devotees prayed for their ancestors and asked the Orisa spirits to guide them through their destinies.