…Why we featured the Ooni of Ife in the movie

Otunba ‘Dotun Taylor is the CEO of non-governmental organisation, Roots and Heritage Renaissance Culture Initiative (PHRC) and Ambassador of Alfred Oladotun Taylor Foundation. In this interview with Rotimi Ige, he speaks about his latest movie and how it is centered on helping Diasporans find their Yoruba heritage. Excerpts:

What inspired you to do the movie ‘Take me home’?

I’m not a filmmaker, I’m a historian who now chooses film as a medium of expression, which means I will not make a random action movie except it has historical perspective.

The motivation has always been culture and also it’s a story of the repatriation of African arts. I am a Yoruba ambassador so immediately I saw the story, I decided that this is what I should do.

As an historian, this is your first attempt or have you done so before?

I’ve produced a couple of films; I used to anchor a radio show while I was in Nigeria. I have written a couple of books. So, if I did not have films, I would use the microphone.

If I did not have the microphone, I will write. So candidly, I mean it that I am not a filmmaker, but I just use these mediums because I can manipulate them to tell stories. First of all, I want to tell a story and I don’t mind the medium.

As an ambassador, the Yoruba culture is a very interesting one. What is the most intriguing thing about the Yoruba culture for foreigners or literally for the US citizens or other foreigners you have come across?

The size of the Yoruba people around the world, mostly the Yoruba culture is a transcontinental one. It is a real surprise that there are more people of Yoruba descent in the Diaspora and more than the number in West Africa.

For instance, Yoruba is the second official language of Brazil and there are millions people who are of Yoruba descent in Brazil, which means a larger number even in Diaspora and most of them are in Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, California etc.

So, I came to actually realise that although Nigeria is the source where everything started, there are a lot of Yoruba people in Europe and Yoruba culture is everywhere in the world.

Interestingly, many of us don’t even know one other. We don’t know and we cannot because some of them have already been colonised by the Spanish or by the English people.

The ones that were announced by the French don’t know the ones colonised by the Portuguese. So, we’re larger than we really think the size or number of Yoruba descent are around the world.

Your love for history as Yoruba Cultural Ambassador is impeccable, Is there a background story to this?

I have B.A degree in history from the University of Ilorin. Apparently, I always wanted to tell stories, that I chose to study history to be a better storyteller and I fell in love with history while I was studying in Ilorin.

Since then, I took interest in history and culture which made the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II, give me the platform as the Asoju Asa Oodua of Yorubaland in the United States to promote and showcase the beauty of the Yoruba culture to the world.

With my little efforts, people across the globe have been able to experience and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba people.

It has been critical in connecting the Yoruba people in the United States with their roots and fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of Yoruba culture.

This would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of the Ooni of Ife, who recognised the passion for promoting Yoruba culture and gave the opportunity to make a difference on a global scale.

Ooni as the cradle of Yorubaland, through his dedication and commitment, the Yoruba culture has been able to reach a wider audience, and more people are gaining insight into the history, traditions, and customs of one of Nigeria’s most prominent ethnic groups.

What other connections do we have with cultures apart from Yoruba?

Yoruba is the only culture that I know about I don’t delve into what I don’t know.

You recently brought some immigrants to Nigeria, are they tourists?

As you know, I am full bred Nigerian based in California, as Asojú Àṣà Oodua and representative of His Imperial Majesty, Ooni of Ife; Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi in the United States of America. I brought some Afro-Americans for Nigeria tourism which is a business that I do.

I have a vacationer company called Ile-Koko, I brought these tourists to Nigeria to trace their roots, which is what the company basically does, helping to trace and identify their roots.

They are basically African Americans right now and have the advantage. They have the advantage of having a strong DNA and when you check their DNA, you will know where their ancestors are from Africa. These can lead them to become good ambassadors of the African continent.

So, we brought these Americans who are already very curious and aware of their African roots. Also in addition to this, we also know that these people are willing to have dual nationalities.

And since we accepted that they’re Africans and Nigerians, we have an agreement and to establish their Nigerian nationalities, with the Ministry of External Affairs so they can have Nigerian passports and choose if to stay here for the rest of their life.

What is the memorable experience when the American tourists met the Ooni and visited the ancient places in Ife?

Those moments are unforgettable, because it was a beautiful and awesome experience. Some of them (Americans) went into trance by touching the Opa Oranmiyan and some of them cried.

You know, it was ecstatic actually, particularly when only a few can trace their ancestral roots. The Ooni told them that he can trace over 60 of his own generations and they know they cannot trace more than two or three generations.

There is no African American that can trace more than two or three of their generation, only their fathers and grandfathers. They really do not know where they came from until the scientific discovery that points them towards that direction.

How often do you do this and what is always the feedback?

I had the launch of my company at the Olojo Festival in Île-Ìfẹ́, in September, 2022, I launched the company. I’ve always been doing tourism in that regards.

Though the feedback had been so beautiful and very wonderful, this is the second edition and so far about 10 to 15 Afro-Americans have come with us from the United States to experienced beauty of Yoruba Culture and find their root.

Can you shed more light on ‘Take Me Home’ movie and the production stage it is now?

The movie was majorly filmed in Hollywood studios and in Ile Ife in Osun State, Nigeria. It has mainly three Nigerian actors.

They are Lateef Adedimeji who had to travel from Nigeria to Hollywood to play his role, Bayo Bankole of the Boy Alinco fame and I played a cameo role though I’m not an actor.

We have shot entirely all of it. Right now, we are in post-production stage where we are doing sound design and all that. And it’s also being edited by a Hollywood editing outfit.

We are looking at it being in the cinemas during the Halloween in November because it is technically a horror comedy and it is actually centered around the Halloween experience in the United States. We have the main actors, Hollywood actors, like Dave Sheridan, Morissette Lambing and others.

So what is unique about the movie?

I like to inform you that I choose to tell stories as a historian and my medium of expression is movie making because I know I can reach more people.

So I believe as a story teller, the movie was written for both audiences and Nigerians will get to watch the movie and love it.

So the information is about the African and Nigerian artifacts which are scattered around the world; that is the message. So I believe I carry a message.

And this message comes out in everything, music, arts, any kind of arts, even the tourism I am doing. I’m not bringing people to Lagos only because I want them to go to clubs; I am bringing people to Lagos and Ife because I want them to experience culture.

How did you manage Ooni on set, was it deliberate considering this is his first appearance in a movie?

First of all, my Kabiyesi, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi seems to be human, he’s young and versatile, his father worked with BCOS as communicator, so he’s familiar with production of filming, with lights and cameras. He writes some of the scripts of his own documentaries by himself.

So it wasn’t difficult to put him on the spotlight. The Ooni is not an actor as he only made an appearance in the movie.

And it’s not strange to me because I know, that the Queen of England appeared in James Bond movie. So, he only took a scene in a movie and the crew and cast were able to pull it off.

What about screening ‘Take Me Home’ in Nigeria?

The movie is coming to all cinemas.


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