* Sacred Connections: Yoruba-Our Continental and Diaspora
Cultural 'Umbilical Chord' (Link)…
…Are we not in all things, Yoruba? Such is the essence of
our "Sacred Connections," that have preserved our identity
from the callous, inhumane act of the "slave trade," the
"middle passage," and events thereafter in the so-called "New World."
We brought with us our deities (Orisha), spirituality, divinity, divination (Ifa),
religion, worship, Ogboni, culture, tradition, heritage, language, oratory, proverbs,
idioms, , logic, songs, poetry, comedy, drama, opera, riddles, jokes, plays, theatres,
literature, politics, government, justice, jurisprudence, law, system of "checks-and-balances" ("Oyo-Mesi"),
music, festivals, fashion, stories (folk-lore/tales), dance, fashion, food, colors, names,
ceremonies, rituals, incantations, spells, chants, magic, science, meta-physics, medicine,
herbs, ethics, mores, morals, determination, perseverance, endurance, survival, labor,
occupation, and hope. We are Nation Builders--we are Yoruba, our language is Yoruba,
and in all things, we are Yoruba, by "The Grace of Olorun- Olodumare":
"Emi ba l'egberun ahon fun 'yin Olugbala…
Ogo Olorun Oba mi, Isegun OreRe…
Baba mi, At'Olorun mi,
Fun mi ni'ranwo Re…
Ki nle ro ka gbogbo aiye…
Ife, Oruko Re…"
In the English speaking world, people usually look for the literary meaning of a
word in a dictionary. But in the Yoruba Kingdom, the Yoruba people usually search
for the meaning of a word by the use of expressive proverbs and idioms.
There is a particular Yoruba proverb: "Owe l'esin oro, bi oro ba sonu, owe la fi nwa,"
which, if both literally and metaphorically interpreted into English, would appear
something like: "Proverbs and idioms are the search-horse for a word, which, if lost,
could necessarily be found by means of proverbs and idioms."
In essence, the Yoruba people use proverbs and idioms to add more meaning to their stories
of adventures, failures, successes, and life in general. Parodies and satires are nothing
new to the Yoruba people. They are fond of using animal characters, comparable to those of
the comic-strip cartoons in the western world, to represent the heroes and villains in their
stories. In most cases, a tortoise is the villain, and any other animal is a hero.
A Yoruba man and/or woman would explain a subject with a blend of riddles and jokes,
euphemism and pessimism, optimism and sarcasm, wonderment and hope, and with some
other reservations and non-reservations. As a Yoruba man, myself, my style of writing
may reflect the above break-down of attitude, which permeates the examples and illustrations
in the hereto narratives. These narratives should, therefore, serve both as enlightenment
and an entertainment, which brings me simultaneously to the following point of view.
There is a variety of entertainment forms of the Yoruba that comprise of songs and chants
whose wordings are not minced, and somewhat 'ungagable' (uncensored) in the pronouncement
of the entertainers and entertained. These forms of entertainment are, undoubtedly,
the fore-runners of the "rap" culture of today's African-American youth. The Yoruba
fore-runners of rap music are the Gelede's Oro Efe; Egungun festival songs, rhythm
and dance; , Oke'badan songs; Abe/Fanti songs: Eka-Aro Eyo; Apala; Sakara; Were;
Juju; Ewi; and the 60's to the present Fela Anikulapo's brand of High-life African ("Afro") beat.
There is a sprinkling of wordings in them, which are comparable to the wordings in the
entertainment form of "rap" music where the use of vulgar and non-vulgar parodies address
the many problems of the young and old alike, vintage "Obisere" (Yoruba) and
"Lil' Wayne" (African-American) in contemporary music entertainment.
It would be an understatement to say that the Yoruba people, like their African-American cousins,
"tell (say) it as it is" (popular slogan in the African-American community in Buffalo, New York).
There is a style which is commonly being referred to by some Yoruba people as Yoruba-English.
This is an entrenched style, which is quite inescapable by even the most careful translator of
Yoruba into English. In spoken or written form, Yoruba-
English approximates African-American English ("Ebonics"), which equals "Gee-Chee," which equals
"Patois," which equals "Creole," and which equals "Pidgin-English." The ideas inherent in these
modes of communication are somewhat traceable to the Yoruba language and some other African languages.
When a Yoruba man or woman says "Mo ma pe e, or "I go call you;" and an African-American man or
woman says "I'm-o (Ahmo) call you, each one, interpretedly in the English language, is saying
"I am going to call you." The similarity between the speech pattern of "Mo ma" (Yoruba) and
"I'm-o" (African-American English language) is interesting enough to warrant my suggestion that
it should be a cause for research by any interested scholar.
In the Yoruba language, "wa" is used in every sentence where "Is," "are," "was," and "were" are
used in the standardized English language. That is to say, for any of these words in English,
one has only to say "wa" in the Yoruba language. I have heard African-Americans use "was" in
all these forms-singular and plural; present and past tenses, as "wa" is applied in the Yoruba language.
For example, an African-American who makes such a statement as "You was there" is saying it
exactly in the Yoruba sense and form of "O wa ni'be." Neither verb changes in form to a past tense
as demonstrated by "You were there" in the standardized English language. "Wa" (Yoruba); and "was"
(African-American English language) are both used as past-tense verbs. "O" (Yoruba); "you"
(African-American, or Black-English), are correspondingly understood to be exclusively singular.
In contrast, speakers of standardized English use "you" to represent a singular, second person or
persons numbering in the hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, trillions, and zillions.
The mispronunciation of some English-even some Yoruba words-is noticeable, phonetically,
in some Yoruba people as a seeming pattern of speech defect. I have observed a comparable
pattern of seeming speech defect in some African-Americans. Larry Holmes, a former
World Heavy Weight Champion, comes to mind here. As an example here, S as pronounced by
someone who is being teasingly referred to as "a son of the soil" ("home boy"). He,
just like Larry Holmes, no matter how hard he tries, would say something like: I'm a shon of the shoil"
in an effort to declare himself as "a son of the soil."
The speech pattern, described above, I s quite evident most areas of the Yoruba Kingdom,
such as Ife, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ijebu, Oyo, Ogbomosho, Oshogbo,, Awe, Iwo, Ede, , Isonyi,
Ofa,, Ondo, Arigidi-Akoko, Ilesha, Ekiti, akure, Agbadarigi, Ketu, and others. Larry Holmes,
and if I may add, "Mr. T.," are "shonsh of the shoil whose linguistic "roots" could be traced
to one of these places in the Yoruba Kingdom.
"Mr.T.", by virtue of his fashion and hair-style, looks like a royal worshipper of Shango,
the Yoruba deity of thunder and lightning. Thus, we can see a distinct Yoruba influence
carried over into some popular African-American heroes.
I cannot remember exactly the first time I heard the Reverend Jesse Jackson speak.
But one thing I can say about him is, whether as a fiery orator or as a cool, level-headed panelist,
and/or talk-show host, he has always sounded to me like a Yoruba man communicating in English,
with a slight polish to his own pattern of speech; as opposed to someone with a full-mouthed
Yoruba-English accent. I have even observed the Reverend Jesse Jackson on several occasions,
when though he might have been speaking in English, whatever it was that he said, would fall
on my ears like one Yoruba dialect or the other.
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