We all know the feeling well.
Sometimes we simply need to get away; to find a place that allows us to forget some of the realities of everyday living. A space to relax . Maybe one which reminds us that our faiths and beliefs, our primal connection to nature and divinity defines us as human beings in a universal way. And for a few glorious hours, I was transported to such a place. Osun Sacred Grove on the outskirts of Oshogbo town.
A dense forest teeming with exotic plants and wildlife. Sanctuaries. Shrines. Palaces. Exquisite 20th-century sculptures. A journey back into an almost forgotten world and the most spectacular examples of sacred art.
It was heavenly beneath the leafy canopy. In midday temperatures close to 29 degrees celsius, I welcomed the green marquee and the coolness of the shade. However, beyond its spectacular natural beauty, this was a special place designated as a World Heritage Site in 2005.
Home to the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods, the sacred grove is abundantly dotted with signatures of Yoruba traditional mythology; shrines, sculptures and contemporary art in honour of Osun and other Yoruba deities.
I was impressed with this congregation of sacred sculptures only an hour away from my town of ile-ife. Although it was over 40 years old, clearly, this was no forgotten monument out in the middle of nowhere. The grounds, antiquities, museum , sculptures and structures looked extremely well-kept. As I took it all in, I was proudly appreciative of the effort it must take to keep this place maintained to the highest standards.
With warm smiles and an undeniable enthusiasm for sharing the goodness of Oshun, the Osun devotees spoke with passion. This was an active religious site where daily, weekly and monthly worship takes place. The more I listened to the stories of Osun and her powers to heal and provide hope for those who desire to be mothers, the more I instinctively understood why this place drew so many people from all over the world. They believed this to be a place of sacred worship, pilgrimage and transformation.
At a time when many heritage sites across the world are disappearing, Osun grove remains a thriving, relevant religious and cultural space. It is also an important reminder that we have a history. It is richly textured with a traditional belief system which predates many Western cultures.
I had set out to learn something new about a world which I thought I knew pretty well. As I left Osun grove, I was extremely satisfied I had found my way there. Here I was, full of optimism and a reinforced sense of my own identity and the roots I share with a wider community.