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Notes on the Geography of Nigeria: Oshogbo: Photo 26

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Which brings us to the question of whether this place should be on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1966, Wenger and Beier had divorced; he left for New Guinea and she stayed behind. Difficult years lay ahead. Wenger had become a convert to Yoruba religion and indeed a priestess, but the Local Government Trade Council in 1985 wrote that she had "no place in our tradition and does not participate in any of the traditional rites.” From her perspective, this rejection might have been more tolerable than local plans for the forest. What plans? The Osun Heritage Council in 1986 hoped that the sacred grove would become another Mecca or Jerusalem. By 2003 the Oshogbo Progressive Union pointed out that Oshogbo "has the natural and precedent tendency of becoming a true African "Disney World." You can imagine Wenger's despair. The ataoja in 2001, who was Muslim, said that the annual festival was not about worship at all but about honoring tradition. Was that on the side of Disney? Hard to say. Then UNESCO came along, offering some protection to the site. Why? Was there someone at UNESCO who believed that this forest was indeed a sacred place, the last of its kind? Or was the decision a tourist-promotion hustle? If so, it hasn't been a very successful one: if five foreigners arrive, it's been a good day. Not that Oshogbo is to blame: when the immigration officer at Heathrow asks if you were in Nigeria on holiday, she smiles.

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