Today I am taking my turn on the Blog Tour for The Oshun Diaries by Diane Esguerra. Many thanks toRachel @ Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to read and review this individual and iluminating book.
High priestesses are few and far between, white ones in Africa even more so. When Diane Esguerra hears of a mysterious Austrian woman worshipping the Ifa river goddess Oshun in Nigeria, her curiosity is aroused.
It is the start of an extraordinary friendship that sustains Diane through the death of her son and leads to a quest to take part in Oshun rituals. Prevented by Boko Haram from returning to Nigeria, she finds herself at Ifa shrines in Florida amid vultures, snakes, goats’ heads, machetes, a hurricane and a cigar-smoking god. Her quest steps up a gear when Beyoncé channels Oshun at the Grammysand the goddess goes global.
Mystifying, harrowing and funny, The Oshun Diaries explores the lure of Africa, the life of a remarkable woman and the appeal of the goddess as a symbol of female empowerment.
As a teacher I am a big believer in the fact that your education never really ends. You spend your whole life acquring knowledge, sometimes from the most unlikely of places. This desire to learn and grow is a huge factor in my love of reading. And I enjoy nothing more than learning about completely new things.
It was this philosophy that drew me to The Oshun Diaries. I do read non fiction, but usually about subjects that I have some prior knowledge of; this book pushed me completely out of my comfort zone. And I am so pleased that it did.
The basis of the Ifa culture is one bound up in the importance of women and the empowerment of the female form. A religion with many Gods and Goddess where gender stereotypes are challenged and the roles are fluid, it is a culture that was margianlised and virtually destroyed by the Colonial Power Structure imposed by the West. Diane explores throughout the book the ways the West have cheated and robbed the African nations and left countries in chaos in their wake.
Nigeria is presented as a beautiful country but one that is filled with complexity and often danger. It is against this backdrop that an incredible Western woman is seeking to reinstate and preserve the Sacred Groves of the Ifa culture. It is a complex story of cutures coming together, one which many find hard to understand. When seeking to find a place for her documemtary about Adunni’s life and work Diane comes up against fears of cultural appropriation and questions about the validity of the culture in today’s world.
Her relationship with Adunni, protector of the sacred shrines is fascinating. Adunni was born Suzanne Wenger. An Austrian Artist who fell foul of the Nazi regime, she join the Resistence, helping marginalised groups during the war by providing safe havens. As with many things about Suzanne/ Adunni her past is unclear; did she, for example serve time in a German Concentration Camp?
This was a fascinating read for me, unlike anything I had read before. It was refreshing to read about a belief system that was so firmly rooted in the female form. It was empowering and enlightening and made me aware of just how narrow, how mainstream, how Western my view of the world’s religion’s is.
This book gave me the reminder that I sometimes need of how much there is to see out there and just reaffirmed my belief that you have to push out of your comfort zone at times, because you never, ever stop learning.
About the author…
Diane Esguerra is an English writer and psychotherapist. For a number of years she worked as aperformance artist in Britain, Europe and the United States, and she has written for theatre and television. She is the recipient of a Geneva-Europe Television Award and a Time Out Theatre Award.
She is previously the author of Junkie Buddha, the uplifting story of her journey to Peru to scatter her late son’s ashes.
She lives in Surrey with her husband David.
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Links to purchase The Oshun Diaries…
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