Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon has recounted how he first met Prof. Ulli Biere and playwright Duro Ladipo which marked a turning point in his life.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, Elebuibon said he met both men at an event where he performed to the amazement of the professor.
He said, “February 1962 was the year when the Mbari Mbayo Cultural Centre was established by Prof. Ulli Biere, Ginas Nwoku, Wole Soyinka, Duro Ladipo and others. Ulli was a professor at the University of Ibadan in the Department of Extramural, but he did not like the atmosphere of urban centre; he preferred living in a rural area so as to know more about the indigenous setting. He left Ibadan and lived at Ilobu for a while before moving to Ede. From Ede, he came to Osogbo where he settled down. He used to attend all traditional festivals, where he would take pictures, ask questions for further research. We had all-night sessions chanting Ifa at the king’s family house. One day, the trio of Ulli Beier, Prof. Armstrong of the Institute of African Studies and Duro Ladipo attended the event. A friend of mine, who was my age-mate, and I both performed so excellently well, chanting Ifa poetry along with our seniors. Ulli Beier was so impressed and loved our performance.
Elebuibon who said the meeting led to a turning point in his life, added that he began working with the men and assisting them in their art.
“Yes, that was the turning point in my life. Ulli told Duro Ladipo that I must work with them. Duro told me that the white man said that I must work with them. Before then, each time I told people I was going to see Ulli Beier people believed I was going there to learn the art of magic. That year, Duro performed Obakoso and was emitting fire from his mouth on the stage. That made people to believe that going to work with Duro and others, I would become a magician and abandon my Ifa study. Whereas, what I was doing with Ulli and Duro was just assisting them to get poems relevant to their plays. They wanted to know the traditional songs that would go along with each scene in their plays,” he said.
The Ifa priest said he assisted Ulli by providing all the information he needed in both his journals and articles.
“At times, he would give me money to travel down to Otan to see Baba Sango and ask him about the deity. My international exposure started from that point. In 1967, I completed my Ifa study and gained freedom from my master. It pleased him to release me. When I had my freedom, Ulli was no longer around, as he used to, because he stayed in Osogbo for close to 15 years without travelling back home. I had an opportunity to continue with Duro Ladipo and we started travelling overseas for performances.”