Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Requiem for Chief Sandrell Ihinosen Rivers (6)


Chief Sandell Ihinosen Rivers

Omi tutu, Ona tutu, Ile tutu, tutu egun!

We have come and are gathered at this place to acknowledge and celebrate the translation of our mother, grandmother, aunt, great aunt, sister, friend and companion, Chief Sandrell Ihinosen Rivers, the Gbesiewu of Badagry, from human being to revered ancestor, from aiye (earth) into orun-odo, the realm of the ancestors.

Ko si ku
May death be no more
Ko si ọfọ
May there be no more loss
Ko si eyo
May tragedy be no more
Ko si arun
May disease be no more
Ko si fitibo
May there be no more overwhelm
Ko si alopa
May there be no more disrespect!

Ibà á şẹ Egun, mo juba
Ibà á şẹ Aruku, mo juba

Ibà á şẹ Sandrell Ihinosen Rivers,
Ibà á şẹ Sandrell Ihinosen Rivers,
Ibà á şẹ Sandrell Ihinosen Rivers,

Ancestral spirits are much more than just dead relatives. Our ancestors live among us, make themselves a part of the day-to-day lives of the living. We seek them out for guidance and, yes, protection.

Transiting from the world of the living to the domain of the dead is anything but finite, but part of what Nigerian writer, Wole Soyinka calls the "cyclical reality" of the "Yoruba world-view."

Each of us comes to this life, born on the winds of Oya, from the world of the unborn and through the "abyss of transition." And each of us will leave again through the same as we make our way back to the world of the ancestors.

When we come into this world, as children, we bring with us aspects of a revered ancestor, certain features of their personality, parts of their physicality, or elements of their knowledge and wisdom. When the time comes for us to leave this place, it is not the end of existence. After death, we pass into a 'life beyond' -- Èhìn-Ìwà.

Spiritual traditions of African people, acknowledge not only souls that after death go to a spirit land, but also souls which remain actively involved in the worldly affairs of the family and community. It is considered perfectly natural and prudent for people, individually and collectively, to call upon the ancestors for advice and guidance regarding important decisions, rituals or celebrations. In grave decisions or decisions of great moment, it would be unthinkable for the elders and chiefs to proceed without first consulting the ancestors.

Although many of us wrap ourselves in objective and materialistic attitudes and do not ordinarily think of our personal ancestors as directly participating in the events of our everyday lives, most of us who dwell here in the land of the living, remain connected to our ancestors by our memories of them and their teachings, the passions residing in the deep recesses of our hearts and souls and the direct manifestations of our DNA.

The Yoruba people tell us that the greatest reward for living a good life is to be remembered by the living. To be remembered is to be kept alive. When an ancestor has been forgotten, he or she simply passes into the infinite where divinities and spirits dwell.

When the ancestor remains within the Sasa, the land of the living, he or she may intervene here on earth, because, in the words of Mbiti "the living-dead are bilingual: they speak the language of men, with whom they lived until 'recently'; and they speak the language of the spirits and of God, to whom they are drawing nearer ontologically."

In exchange for being ritually remembered, the ancestors watch over the family and community and can be contacted for advice and guidance.

So let us remember Sandrell. Let us keep her among us. Let us remember her for the multi-talented singer, dancer, actress, she was. Let us remember her diversity as a performer, director, and university professor. Let us remember her tireless work to uplift and edify the arts in our community.

Let us remember her outstanding community leadership, achievements and service. And let us remember her efforts to reconnect African Americans and the African Diaspora with the motherland.

Let us see her in our dreams and in our spirit communications. Let us allow her to impart information or explanation or give instructions on any matter of family and community. We have lived with her some of her life story. Let it be a lasting message of guidance and good wishes. Let us receive her gift of life and consecrate her sacred task of joining those who have gone before her -- of becoming an ancestor.

© Joseph D. McNair; 2010


  1. Joe, this is one of the most lucid xplanations of the Yoruba worldview that I have read.

    Give thanks,