This is another poem sent to us by Oluwatoba Opemip, a student of Adekunle Ajasin University in Ondo state, Nigeria. As in the previous poem, Oluronbi, this is a modern working on traditional Yoruba folklore.

A lot of African oral poetry relates to observations of the appearance, behaviours and character of specific animals (see Yoruba Ijala poems such as Elephant, Buffalo and Hunters’ Salutes).

One Yoruba folktale involves the interaction of a mouse (Asin), a squirrel (Okere) and a tortoise (Ijapa). Tortoise is on his way home when he sees the squirrel and the mouse engaged in a furious fight. Seeking to mediate between the two, tortoise intervenes to separate the fighters but is bit on his nose by the mouse. This altercation is given as the explanation of why tortoises have crooked noses. One version of this tale is traditionally performed in song:

Asin bumi nimu je,
Jo mi jo,
Asin bumi nimu je,
Jo mi jo,
Ija re ni mo wa la o,
Jo mi jo,
Ija re ni mo wa la o,
Jo mi jo,

The mice has bitten my nose
Jo mi jo,
The mice has bitten my nose
Jo mi jo,
I only came to make them part
Jo mi jo,
I only came to make them part
Jo mi jo,

Here is Oluwatoba Opemip’s interpretation of this tale:

Father has a fairytale
Of Odudu the scary face (1)
Grandpa has a statue
To carve
Of Ijakunmo (2)
The night felon
That terrifies
Mother has a story to tell
Of Ijapa, Asin and Okere’s case (3)
Little children gather around
Let your ears
Be in one accord
Listen to the words
Of ancient tongues
Baba Ewe is here
With his moral ways
Asin bu mi nimu je
The song goes does
Joo-mi Joo!
The verse do say
It was just a faithful day
When Ijapa stroll the path
Where unity and love
Went a-may
Where Asin and Okere
Were having pat
Of hatred and spiteful spat
He flew with speed
And ran to them
With a thought
To make them part
He ended the fight
With a saddened heart
With his nose being
Bitten apart.

by Oluwatoba Opemip,
Ondo state, Nigeria


Footnotes

  1. Odudu: A mythical monster’s name coined and normally used by elders in Yoruba land to scare little ones or possibly make them sit or behave gently.
  2. Ijakumo: A name given to someone who acts like a monster, a felon or tyrant
  3. Ijapa is the tortoise, Asin the mouse, and Okere the squirrel.