Folk Art PA

Temujin Ekunfeo

Yoruba Sacred Beadwork
(Practicing Spirituality)

Babalosa Obalorun Temujin Ekunfeo, is a Babalosa (Priest) in the Lukumi/Yoruba tradition as it has been practiced in the Cuban and United States Diaspora.  He first learned to make ritual artifacts and beadwork from Chris Oliana, and grew further in the tradition with his mentor Gilberto Martinez.  He is also well known as a storyteller in the Pittsburgh region

 “I think of my bead-working as a gift. This journey and obligation means more to me than I have words, either written or spoken, to express.”

The rich culture of Yoruba includes a belief in one supreme god, Olodumare.  Olodumare interacts with the world through the Orishas, deities who control specific aspects of nature and everyday life.  As an initiated priest in Orisha worship (also called Santeria), Ekunfeo’s responsibility includes the creation of beaded ritual objects. He learned from other initiates and finds inspiration from the ancestors and Orisha.  The Yoruba community believes these spirit-filled objects represent more than artifacts to be looked at and enjoyed for their beauty. They evoke a deeper meaning as initiates actively use them in the practice of the religion.

“I don’t need to invent, or read a book for its ideas, or learn from someone who has gone to Africa to learn... I got lucky and found someone who guards jealously, protects fiercely, and unapologetically teaches the traditions as they have been passed down from Latuán*”.

Born in Africa, Latuán imposed order on Orisha worship as she found it in Cuba after arriving on a slave ship in the 1860’s.