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Sena Agyepong1 and Immaculata Nwokoro2
Department of Business Administration, Ashesi University College, Accra, Ghana Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria Geosophic consideration is important in achieving sustainable design for nations outside the western hemisphere. Such design is underpinned by the philosophy of mimesis. The research explored geosophy to understand the mimetic design principles in Yoruba urbanism. It adopted qualitative methodology. Data gathered through scoped literature and two hour each interview of seven Ifa educational system sages were analyzed using grounded theory to conceptualised Yoruba city design intents. Four categories of conceptual framework including “cosmological world view”, “harmonic ideal”, “seat of power” and “nodal symbol” were found to influence urban design in the study area. While “cosmological world view” emerged as the core category the remaining three constitute sub categories. The core hypothesis which stemmed from theory generation is that Yoruba urbanism is influenced by her cosmological world view. The cosmological world view is based on 16 sided polygonal cosmic urban forms with a square inset that corresponds to the cardinal points. Sustainable design in Yoruba cities must explore the prime position of architectural numerology that operates on “4”, “16” in ‘sense of place’ determination. This is in addition to the accommodation of bio-mimicry of the ecosystems and their living communities within the bioregion that naturally exhibit identified characteristics. Keywords: cosmological world view, geosophy, geomantic planning, mimesis.
Sustainable design had been the concern of built environment professionals since the advent of postmodernism. Post modernism preaches a systemic approach to design with climate and biophysical variables to create human habitats in harmony with nature. Simulating ecological process in designing of human settlement is what Ryn and Cowan (1999) referred to as ecological design. Such design followed the principles of bio mimicry. Bio mimicry examines models, systems, process and elements in nature with goal of imitating or acquiring information to solve human problems. Form, process and ecosystem are the three levels of mimicry in design with nature. Nature in this instance is viewed on a bioregional platform where daily relationship of man with his immediate environment is paramount (Nicholls 2004). As examined by Downton (2002) bioregionalism is having “a sense of place”. This principle seeks a localized design solution. It emphasize that man and earth are intrinsically related and the sustainability of the earth depend on man’s consciousness of his ecosystem which consequently determines the way he interact with the
There seemed to be a distinct traditional school of planning with unwritten urban design manual. social and economic structures. Universe is traditionally on three levels namely the natural world. culture. Such identity emanates from the fusion of spiritual. Latitudes 50 55/N and 90 10/N above the equator.the sum total wisdom man developed in living at a particular place in the biosphere. Lefferts (2007) referring to Buckminster Fuller research works submitted that nature and the universe uses a particular set of energetic relationships that influence the way naturally designed systems are sustainable. social and traditional meanings a ‘place’ generates to the inhabitants. That is why Arbab (2000) made case for the creation of alternative development strategy that seeks to apply spiritual principles to the transformation of physical. and belief system developed in partnership with contextual landscape. The knowledge manifests in commercial. MIMETIC ART THEORY AND DESIGN FORM Mimetic theory is a world view art concept that emanates from the philosophy of universe. Parts of Kwara. social. and the non material world. Such principles will find relevance in people driven sustainable architectural design.environment (Berg. Understanding this cosmic world view is what Lefferts (2007) called cosmometry. STUDY AREA Yoruba nation lies between longitudes 10 25/E and 60 45/E. structures. human society. This is borne out of conviction that scientific perceptions in sustainability constitute an inquiry into matter and nature of external world while religion is an inquiry into consciousness. Knowing a civilization’s concept of nature is tantamount to knowing how a civilization thinks and acts. anthropological and ecological tourism industry. 2006). world view varies with local people’s perception of what is called nature at point in time.” That is. Ogun. 2001). effective land use planning that accommodates human dimensions in decision making. Kogi and Edo states are inclusive. which he defined as ‘the study of the fundamental patterns. According to NPC (1991) the total population of Yoruba speaking states in Nigeria was 25. In Nigeria. Yoruba nation inhabit the south western geopolitical region (Figure 1). At the centre of such alternative strategy is Geosophy. All classic Yoruba cities share the same form (Obateru. Mimetic theory of art simply states that art is essentially an imitation of nature. If nature mimics the cosmos for sustainability then imitating nature in design works will meet the needs of man for generations. processes and principles that are at the foundation of reality and the application of this knowledge towards the design of sustainable and healthy living systems”. Hence bioregionalism demands that sustainable design must be built on “sense of place”. The concept of ‘place’ addresses man’s relationship to his environment especially how such landscape is used over a period of time to create a site specific identity. This paper examines geosophy to understand the mimetic design principles in Yoruba urbanism. identifying and building on distinctive local cultural resources for city branding – a marketing tool for successful cultural. It is fully made up of five federating units of Nigeria including Lagos.000. Oyo. Please leave the footers empty . spiritual and the nature of unseen world (Kapur 2000). Osun and Ondo states.000. its own interpretation of what the world is all about. Verhagen (2008) citing Rifkin (1983) observed that “Every age has its own unique view of nature. conference.
and water are associated with four of the five solids. Generating metaphysical experience demands interaction between the human mind and the material world. Hagen (2006) observed that Plato theorized forms are tetrahedron (4 sides). For the designers. a house is a real thing whereas a perspective drawing or an architectural model of the same house is a mimema (Sorbom 1992). Map of Nigeria showing the 36 States AS noted by Sorbom (1992). theory of mimesis as documented in ancient texts is not exactly a theory of art in a modern sense. the dodecahedron (12 sides) and the icosahedron (20 sides). Plato postulates a metaphysics in which the four elements of Greek science . it is rather a theory of pictorial apprehension and representation. air. Thus ‘mimema’ as a thing becomes a vehicle for ‘man-made dreams produced for those who are awake’. as Plato suggestively formulated it (Lane 2007). What the designer does is to manipulate any effect that an intended object has on man. dreams. the octahedron (8 sides). Please leave footer empty . Geosophical planning is a world view design and planning techniques operating on ancient philosophy relating and living on earth. fire. this experience is achieved through the interaction between the human mind and the physical elements of the environment. That is why Russell (1961) testified that platonic forms are perfect templates that exist in an immaterial world. Plato said.Yoruba urbanism Figure 1. In the case of the built environment. The real thing then exists in an immaterial realm. That is. For example. are the ultimate reference points for all objects we observe in the physical world. All geomantic planning does is to relate human design with cosmic design forms so as to harmoniously access intangible attributes entrenched in radiant earth energy. Neither the dream nor the mimema is a real thing. and ideas. the painting is a thing that looks like a house but is not a house. These forms. the architect tampers with the effect of the object whose original form is domicile in the intangible realm of ideas. memories. Thus design at any level is the imitation of ideal forms in the intangible realm. Many parts of the human existence are metaphysical including thoughts. They are more real than the physical objects in this material world (Lane 2007).earth. These complex platonic forms have recently been discovered to be planetary grid that served as geosophical planning model for Neolithic man. the hexahedron or cube (6 sides). The theory of mimesis was based on the relationship between ‘mimemata’ and real things. feelings.
and low level meaning. middle level meaning. Greek esoteric traditions and philosophers including Plato and Pythagoras attested to position of grid lines and nodes in creative design that attracts man. This paper examined the root of Yoruba indigenous sustainable design principles. The study recognized Rapoport (1988) model for reading meaning in built environment. This corroborates Obateru (2006) submission that physical composition and configuration of aboriginal towns is a reflection of the communal philosophical perception of planet earth. 1999). Aboriginal perceptions and relationship to the earth influence the physical form of created settlements within the contextual bioregional landscape. Extant literatures. that is. The use of literature review as secondary data is hinged on the fact that the authors undertook some Please leave the footers empty . Vastu Shastra is the traditional Indian architecture and design system (Raman. RESEARCH METHOD This research is interpretive in nature. Vastu shastra is ancient India’s planning philosophy that allows creative access to ‘bioforce’. Black (2009) refers to grounded theory as a research method of comparative data analysis. 1981). The Hindu philosophy that drives vastu shastra emphasized that successful human existence on planet earth depends on how man is able to harness the gifts in nature. applied in an inductive research process. There seems to be consensuses that planetary grid and its biophysical ingredients possess intangible attributes that are culturally interpreted to attract man over the ages. Bring et al (1981) research works on the foundation of garden design and urban planning in Japan is a relevant case study. Kamba. Data collection spans a variety of empirical materials including scoped reviewed literature on the phenomenon. While Feng Shui is Buddhism influenced on Taoist art of placement in China and Oriental nations. Qualitative research is exploratory and descriptive in form with characteristic ongoing data collection and inductive analysis. Rapoport (1988) high-level meaning describes cosmological and supernatural symbolism that was embedded in buildings and urban platting reflecting the culture and the philosophical system of local people. including Japan and China. interviews and personal observation. journals and conferences are research submissions that can be subjected to qualitative analytical process (Jabareen. environmental design and planning is culturally done in India through Vastu Shastra. had long acknowledged the place of earth energy in sustainable spatial configuration of cities and other urban components. At the core of this community doctrine is earth creation.Oriental nations. 2009). 2009. 2004). Spatial consideration in Japanese environmental design is traced to the concept of Chinese “harmonic ideal”. The goal of Chinese environmental planning is to achieve harmony with nature. Grounded theory was the adopted method to theorize Yoruba city design intents. His three level model is made up of high level meaning. Hermetic philosophy elucidates planetary grid as planning tool for neolithic man. This translates into Chinese art principles where man is positioned to harness the positive heavenly energies in his quest to survive on earth. Ancient Chinese Feng shui geomantic planning recognizes earth energy as dragon lines that influence oriental human settlements. It adopted qualitative methodological approach. It is a Hindu system of philosophy based on the belief that human life can be improved by rearranging the spaces or design elements where we live and work to benefit from cosmic influences (Ananth. This is geosophy – the philosophy of man’s relationship to the bioregion. harmony of forces within and between physical and immaterial environments (Bring et al.
Please leave footer empty . The open coding proceeded in parallel. Figure 2. Research Process Data gathering and analysis is also in two phases. following a process of axial coding. The selective coding phase of Ifa sages transcribed interviews led to the emergence of 18 concepts. This second phase is directed by emerging concepts. The first phase of textual data gathering and analysis were from reviewed literature on Yoruba traditional urban design documented in various research works and books on Yoruba nation building. concepts and categories. Seven scoped secondary textual sources made up of five books and two articles were used. into 4 categories. The second group of textual data was semi structured interviews of seven sages in Ifa educational system to obtain first hand information on Yoruba urban design and planning system. A very important milestone in grounded theory methodology is taking decision on when to stop data gathering and analysis RESULTS The open coding of all the 7 scoped literature produced 20 different concepts. memos. Each scoped literature was subjected to open coding to derive incidents. The research process is in two stages namely pre study and data gathering and analysis (Figure 1). involving a more strategic selection of 7 informants knowledgeable in traditional Yoruba Ifa educational system. which were organized. codes. concepts and categories on the phenomenon. treating each extant literature as confirmation or further development of results from earlier one. All conducted interviews were interspersed with transcription and selective coding which allowed for the confirmation of scoped literature findings or further generation of codes.Yoruba urbanism measure of research before writing.
following a process of selective coding into four categories namely “Numerology”.The concepts were organized. harmonic ideal.” That is whatever is below is like unto that which is above’. This is achieved by locating most auspicious position on the landscape. “Seat of Power”. There are 16 major deities including Ifa that also has 16 disciples. The recurrence of ‘16’ and ‘4’ is a Yoruba cultural adherence to Hermetic principle which states that. Ifa sages interview confirmed such locations through divinations to be followed by sacrifices at the inception of Yoruba city building that often commence from the panoramic palace landscape. Geomancy divinely relates human design with cosmic design forms so as to harmoniously access intangible attributes entrenched in radiant earth energy. mimesis highlights the principle of mimicking heavenly divinities in this material realm to arrive at 16 radial forms with prominent 4 cardinal points. nodal symbol. While cosmology refers to mythology and Yoruba aboriginal city foundation. as below. Category 3: Nodal Symbol. "As above. On the earth (material realm) there are also 16 chiefs (Oloye) answerable to the king (Oba). In the Ifa sages interview analysis similar category evolved as ‘Numerology’ with additional use of ‘16’ and ‘4’ in divination system. Everything in Yoruba world view runs on ‘16’ and its divisible indices of ‘4’. Category 2 Harmonic Ideal. “City Building Strategy”. Codes. In the Yoruba understanding of heaven (intangible realm) there are “16 deities” (orisas) on the beck and call of Supreme God (Olodumare). 2008). concepts and the categories derived from scoped literature and Ifa sages interview were properly synthesised for similarities and differences with the intention of changing. modifying or detecting new categories. “Nodal Symbol” and “City building Strategy” (Table 1). Category 1: Yoruba Cosmological World View The initial scoped literature analysis core category was Eco Form composed of the cosmology and mimesis concepts. Table 1 Scoped Literatures and Ifa Sages Categories Synthesis S/N Scoped Literature Ifa Sages Interview Remark 1 Eco Form Numerology Changed 2 Environmental harmony Geosophy Combined 3 Seat of Power Retained 4 Nodal Symbol Symbolic Linkage Combined 5 City building Strategy New New Category Cosmological World View Harmonic Ideal Seat of Power Nodal Symbol City building Strategy Grounded Theory Synthesis (2010) Conceptual Frameworks for Understanding Mimetic Design in Yoruba Urbanism Identifying design intents in the configuration of these cities looked at the grounded theory analysis and synthesis of scoped extant literature and Ifa Sages interview to derive four categories including cosmological world view. Divination in Yoruba land is done by 16 cowries or 4 halves of Cola nitida seed (Ologundudu. seat of power. so above. Please leave the footers empty . There are 16 major ‘Ifa Odus’. memos. Five categories emanated from the synthesis namely “Cosmological World View”. “Symbolic Linkage” and “Geomancy”. “Harmonic Ideal”. Textual analysis of scoped literature identified hilly landscape as the preferential site planning criteria for the city core made up of the palace and the adjoining king’s market. so below.
It carries the economic. Ifa geomantic planning identifies the city core as major city dome where earth energy is assessed. The “King” is the political leader as well as chief priest of the city. The quarter chief (Oloye) assumes the same role on quarter basis while the ‘Olori ebi’ control the compound and family deity. Seat of Power. The influence of cosmological world view on Yoruba urbanism manifested in the four properties that constitute the major category namely cosmic urban form. The King administered the city state from the palace city core through the quarter chiefs to compound heads (Oloriebi). • Please leave footer empty . • Hypothesis 4: There is a relationship between Yoruba Cosmological World View and Nodal Symbol. Most of the national Yoruba deities are located within the palace and adjoining land uses accepting sacrifices through their priests under the leadership of the King. • Hypothesis 3: There is a relationship between Yoruba Cosmological World View and Seat of Power. economic and political institutional frame work of the town. Cosmic urban referred to the 16 sided polygons influenced by the 16 divinities in Ifa earth creation. All physical objects radiates to him. urban numerology. principal deities and governance. The political governance with the king at the centre of affairs and 16 chiefs ruling over quarters is rooted in the cosmic personalities that recreate the earth after the flood in Yoruba world view. Category 4: The Seat of Power The Seat of Power category from scoped literature revealed the social. The political structure is also an imitation of the cosmic Olodumare (supreme God) and the 16 divinities. festive. Yoruba Mimetic Urban Design Theoretical Framework The core category that emerged from synthesized categories is Cosmological World View while the sub-categories include Harmonic Ideal. The same 16 and 4 constitute numerology in Yoruba daily living and art works. The King’s palace is therefore the vista of Yoruba city. Nodal Symbol and City Building Strategy. religious and recreational image of the city. Nodal Symbol category is a group of concepts highlighting the place of animist religious belief system in Yoruba city planning. The category network is represented as Figure 2.Yoruba urbanism Religion is at the centre of aboriginal city planning. In addition to cosmic form is the square that corresponds to the cardinal points often attached to primordial deities. The city core is therefore a Yoruba city mindscape composed of local and external images of the city. This is not unconnected with his position as the spiritual head of the kingdom receiving positive bio force from the major city dome. social. The core hypotheses which stemmed from the theory generation process are: Hypotheses 1: Yoruba Urbanism is influenced by Her Yoruba Cosmological World View • Hypothesis 2: There is a relationship between Yoruba Cosmological World View and Harmonic Ideal.
The belief system identified domes on earth (Igbo Odu) where extra terrestrial energy flows from celestial world. Smith (2007) identified four basic beliefs about cosmological significance including principle of heavens on earth.Figure 2. Such energy points must be geomantically located to enhance successful living on earth. the theoretical framework for Yoruba cities fit perfectly into Rapoport (1988) high-level meaning’’ sacred architecture’. The grand nodal space in the city corresponds with king’s market within the city core. ‘seat of power’ is influenced by the cosmological world view. Other nodal points are the road intersections belief to be minor energy points. The nodal points. Three properties of “harmonic ideal” are geomantic planning.conscious. While mythological frame work identified the supreme position of self existing God ‘Olodumare’ and 16 divinities in heaven. The last category. the city core and the inter sections are treated as outdoor temples with shrines for periodic propitiation according to the polytheist nature belief. Such locations correspond to panoramic landscapes. the cosmos are set in four cardinal points so planning works on earth should do likewise. Political. CONCLUSIONS Traditional Yoruba urbanism is a geosophic perspective of cosmic statement as expressed in the Ifa mythology of earth creation. Self-conscious group are professionals who rely upon sets of principles to create city forms that are liveable. Major energy points in the city are geomantically chosen as the city core made up of the palace and king’s market. earth energy and panoramic landscape.conscious and un-self. Citing the works of Eliade (1959).0 Category Frameworks for Yoruba Urbanism Yoruba cosmological world view had a direct cause on achieving environmental harmony. The latter is intuitive in nature and is capable of affecting urban form. Principles employed by the self-conscious group actually evolved from the unwritten knowledge and wisdom the intuitive group developed in living harmoniously in a Please leave the footers empty . The political structure is a reflection of the heavenly contingent that created earth. Yoruba cosmological world view also had a direct cause on “Nodal symbol”. and that the art of divination is needed to locate and sanctify sacred space on earth. Beckley (1980) classified urban designers in two categories namely self. In retrospect. there is an axial linkage between heaven and earth. a copy of this administrative model was instituted on city scale. religious system and the personification of the city by the king are the properties of this category.
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