The Ifa Paradigm: Reading the Spirit in Tina McElroy Ansa’s Baby of the Family

  • Georgene Bess Montgomery


After being introduced to Ifa, an ancient African spiritual system, during a Yoruba language course, I immersed myself into learning more about the religion. The more knowledgeable I became about the religion, the more aware I became of how prevalent the tenets of the religion really are in systems of thought and how they permeate the lives of African peoples. I realized that part of what attracted me to the religion was its practicality and, more significantly, how it was so similar to notions, practices, and attitudes that existed in my community that had been passed down for generations. I also began to see references to Ifa throughout the literature of African American and Caribbean writers when I read or reread texts. This knowledge of Ifa provided me with a whole new interpretation of the literary texts. Upon rereading several texts—Ishmael Reed’s Yellow Radio Broke Down and Mumbo Jumbo, Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day, Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, and Elizabeth Nunez’s When Rocks Dance to name only a few—my knowledge and under-standing of Ifa provided for me a significantly different and substantively more meaningful way of interpreting the symbols and ideas embedded in the texts, whose meanings had until that time remained locked.


Fermentation Dust Beach Ghost Toll 


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Works Cited

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Copyright information

© Sandra Shannon and Dana Williams 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgene Bess Montgomery

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