Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine has invited Olatokunboh Obasi, an African herbalist living in Puerto Rico, to teach in Asheville in early June.
Olatokunboh offers a unique perspective often lacking in many herbal programs – an indigenous voice speaking to the parallels of colonialism of land and colonialism on health.
We had an opportunity to interview Olatokunboh about why she feels it’s important to teach Decolonizing Wellness (offered on June 8th) and Indigenous Wisdom (offered on June 9th). Her responses really inspired us, especially because as Westerners, we tend to have a harder time seeing hegemonic constructs.
What inspired you to teach about the colonization of wellness? Why do you think it’s important for people to take this class?
Olatokunboh: “I began this journey at the Southeast Wise Women’s conference when I created dialogue pertaining to race, safe space and healing in the Sister Love’s Tent as part of Unity Village. I didn’t know I was initiating a trend on what has become viral now in decolonialism. I originally come from a continent that experienced harsh colonial rule under the British empire. My grandfather was a Mau Mau freedom fighter and I grew up (hearing) his stories of self determination and resistance. Fast forward, working as a clinician, I have seen so many clients over the years whose health care institution imposes and many times threatens them to under go surgery or take certain prescription medication. If you look at body as land and land as body, there is a synergistic relationship with how colonies are colonized and bodies are colonized through the healthcare system. People should take this class to be informed, to reenforce and to unlearn the programming that has been developed within our health care system that does not serve us, but rather capitalizes and oppresses us.”
What will people have an understanding of at the end of the day?
Olatokunboh: “I seek to define colonialism, define our wellness journey thus far, imagine wellness decolonized, emphasis herbalism as key to empowerment, clearly understand colonialism in the healthcare system and how “we” participate in it, what are the solutions that each one of us can offer to shift the colonization on our wellbeing. Health concerns such as depression, anxiety, addictions, trauma are examples of how colonialism has contributed to our sickness and un-wellness.”
What inspired you to teach the class Indigenous Wisdom: Concepts of Wisdom from an Indigenous Voice for the Future of the Earth. Why do you think it’s important for people to take this class?
Olatokunboh: “I grew up and continue to walk the road of my roots. I am indigenous African meaning I honor myself and the earth the way my people once did and I carry that legacy in rediscovery and respect. I am also adopted Taino on the island of Boriken via my mother matriarch Bibi Kukuya. I began Indigenous Wisdom at the Southeast Wise Women’s conference 5 or 6 years ago along with Decolonialism, where people have grasped onto the idea. I believe indigenous understanding and wisdom is key to resolving our worldly problems. As a key holder, I share what is becoming mythology and seek to pass on that which I remember and recall. This is an important subject because it resolves violence, climate change, imperialism, supremacy, rape, sexism, gender inequality, binary systems, hunger, family separation, injustice, racism, suicide, etc. All healers and healthcare practitioners should be aligned with indigenous wisdom which begins with their own journey of healing and finding their voice. My voice as an indigenous woman speaks out of concern and offering of healing for the future generations (plant, animals, all life forms and people) on this planet.”
What are the main learning objectives of your Indigenous Wisdom class?
Olatokunboh: “Much is mentioned above; to leave people with ideas and tools to work with their communities and families to selves in shifting patterns that don’t work any longer. To bring tools to assist in finding their unique indigenous voice with our appropriation and exploitation of others.”
Feeling inspired yet?
About Olatokunboh Obasi
Olatokunboh Obasi has been working in the wellness field for over 15 years. She is a yoga and dance instructor, clinical herbalist, nutritionist and birth doula. Olatokunboh is also the owner of Omaroti: Well of Indigenous Wisdom, an indigenous conscious wellness space specializing in herbal medicine and nutrition located in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Committed to community holistic health, social justice, and education, she works heavily in community service and African Traditional Medicine. Presently, she coordinates Herbalists without Borders International on the island of Puerto Rico and contributes to the early phases of movement in honoring the herbal traditions for People of Color, reminding the Western world that colonization and oppression, supremacy and economic greed has disfranchised herbal practices, community structure and general health of all people of Indigenous heritage. Originally from Africa, her travels around the world are extensive as she integrates traditional knowledge of herbs, health and wellness with her western education. She received her Master’s of Science from Maryland University of Integrative Health. Olatokunboh is a mother of 3 teens. She continues to learn from her children through challenge and tribulation as she shares her journey of life with them and the human family. You can follow her on Instagram at @omarotiwellofindigenouswisdom