Alafia. I am Iyanifa Mahealani Uchiyama, a priestess of S’ango and Ifa, and a high priestess of Nana Buuken (Iyaami). I was initiated by and am an associate of the Ifa Foundation. I am a member of the Council of Mothers of the Waters, a circle of 16 women of prayer and ceremony from across continents and various cultures who have committed to work collectively to pray for the healing of the world waters and humanity.
I am also a dancer and musician. I hold a BA in Dance Ethnology, and an MA in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. I am the founder of the Mahea Uchiyama Center for International Dance and have produced and been part of numerous major performances for close to 30 years.
Many years ago when I was a member of the Orinoco Caribbean Dancers and Drummers, we performed dances to S’ango. At that time I received the call from the Orisa to study and become a part of this beautiful tradition.
My ancestors are Wolof, Mande, Yoruba, and Cherokee. In search of my own truth, I have traveled, lived and studied in many parts of the world, including Hawai’i, Tahiti, New Zealand, India, Senegal and Zimbabwe. I am bi-lingual, and in addition to having shared and learned culturally-based music and dance, I developed family and friends in each of these communities. In doing so, I have become a true citizen of the world.
I am also a recording artist, and endeavor to motivate my community to recognize their own unique gifts and their value to others. Two of my CDs, “A Walk by the Sea” and “Ndoro dze Madzinza” are both recipients of Hawai’i Music Awards.
My Way of Life (Odu Ifa) is Owanrin Meji, a journey in which utilizing the wisdom of Ifa directs me on the path to my destiny, free of impediment. And my Ifa name is Olayinka, “Honor Surrounds Me”. My organization, The Sacred Forest, is dedicated to the preservation, appreciation and understanding of Ifa. At home and at work, creating dance or in my community, I live my life according to Ifa. Orunmila, the Orisa and the Ancestors have poured blessings on me.
Photography by Margo Moritz