Ayodeji Ogunnaike

Assistant Professor
African American and African Studies
Ayodeji Ogunnaike

A scholar of African and Afro-diasporic religious traditions in Brazil and Nigeria, Ayodeji Ogunnaike has a keen interest in the ways each region has influenced the practice of religion in the other. He studied Ifa divination with high priest Ifarinwale Ogundiran in Modakeke, Nigeria, and while his main areas of research are Brazilian Candomblé and oriṣa worship in Nigeria, he also studies Islam and Christianity on the continent and in diaspora as well as other Afro-diasporic traditions.

His most recent book project, Forms of Worship: How Oriṣa Devotion Became Religion in Nigeria and Brazil, analyzes how the worship of traditional Yoruba deities originally differed greatly from Western notions of “religion” but eventually became the most widespread and celebrated indigenous African religion through experience in the Atlantic diaspora, contact with modernity and Christian mission activity. His work has been supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the American Philosophical Society, among others.

Ogunnaike received his bachelor’s degree in African studies and Near Eastern languages and civilizations, a master’s in religious studies, and a Ph.D. in African and African American Studies from Harvard University. Most recently, he was an assistant professor at Bowdoin College.

He is currently working on Yoruba Mythology: Stories of the Oriṣa, Ijapa and Yoruba Heroes, the first major anthology of Yoruba mythology, with his brother and UVA faculty colleague, Oludamini Ogunnaike, and curates an online library of Ifa orature. This fall, Ogunnaike will teach courses on Afro-Brazilian religion and culture and the connections between Brazil and Africa.