By Mary Nooter Roberts
University of California, Los Angeles

Wolof peoples, Senegal, Ogun shrine. Photo by Allen F. Roberts.

Some African deities actually personify change. Ogun, the Yoruba god of hunting, iron, and warfare, described by Robert Farris Thompson as “Lord of the Cutting Edge,” always evolves according to the complexities of contemporary circumstances. As Africans were forcibly established in the Americas, Ogun proved essential to coping with radically oppressive social change. In the African Americas, Ogun has been reinvented to accommodate synthetic religions and represents a god of innovation and recycling. Likewise, on the African continent, altars to Ogun are cumulative repositories of history made up of recycled materials. Even late nineteenth-century larger-than-life statues portraying Ogun were made from recycled materials, including scrap iron from derelict ships and the newly created railroad. As a shrine to Ogun is assembled from bits and pieces of things that once were and will be, potential is accumulated as inspiration for the future.