A Kanuri Praise-Poem from the ancient kingdom of Bornu in northern Nigeria (see also The Sultan of Bornu, The Yerima Mohammadu). The Yerima was an official responsible for the defence and general administration of the northern part of the Bornu kingdom, and was invariably the grandson of a Sultan.

Hi! Young lady! Be careful young lady!
When his neighbour is sweeping out his compound, the Yerima
Breaks his head with cones of sugar.
Yarima Ali, his mother Amne, (1)
the last of his line to rule in Gajiram: (2)
The honey of Kummowa town;
Kumai in the east, the town of your female slave;
You, a son of Amne of the Shuwa Arab tribe,
A son of Mairema, who never turns his back on his assailents,
Owner of Tawai and of Bariri town.
Since I was born I have never seen a good man except you, (3)
Since I was born and grew up to be as old as I am now,
I have never seen a good man except you.
Fire of the town of Barari,
Smoke of Kukawa called “Ngwali”.
Yerima Aji, whose mother was Amne,
Owner of Tawai, my lord Aji.
East, the town of Barari is yours,
In the west, you own Bara, the pagan town;
Son of a man invincible.
A calabash spoon will get one over the difficulty of eating hot food;
for the dangers of river water, a canoe is the remedy;
For hunger possession of a milch cow is the remedy;
For cold, a blanket is the remedy;
A large leather sheet is a protection against a tornado;
Aji, whose mother was Amne and father the Invincible,
is one’s remedy against all that troubles;
The kid of a long-haired goat may show a likeness
to its dam in its forehead, its ribs or its legs;
Son of the Invincible, you are the remedy against all that troubles.

Here is the original in Kanuri:

Kaiya, fero ate! Laburrade fero ate!
Yerimate, kumoskinze fato furajinga
Kelanze dongur sukurbelan rezono.
Gaji bela Gajirambe,
Yarima Aji Amneni:
Kumagon bela Kummowabe;
Kumai bela kirbe gidimima;
Tata Ta Amne Shuwarambe;
Mairemami, galte maratin bago,
Tawaima, bela Bararima.
Tambuskenan kam ngila ruskoni,
Kabu tambuske akkairo wuragoskon,
Kam ngila ruskoni.
Kannu bela Bararibe,
Kanje Kukawa Ngwalibe.
Yerima Aji Amnemi,
Tawaima, Maini Aji.
Gidin, bela Bararima,
Puten, Bara bela kirdibema;
Darimi.
Ago kannuwaro, jeni kurgun;
Nki burumbero magara kurgun;
Kinaro kinara kurgun;
Kakuro bargo kurgun;
Deleye dilagero kurgun;
Aji Amnemi Darimi kurgun nagunotibe;
Tata kani tukushibe biya ngumnyin,
biya shitilan, biya dunnulan chukuto;
Darimi, kurgan nagunotibe.

J.R. Patterson
from Kanuri Songs (Lagos, 1926), 9-10


Footnotes

  1. Yerima Aji held office in the reign of Shehu Hashim, and died in 1904. His grandfather, the “Invincible”, was Shehu Lamina.
  2. Gajiram, today a town in the north-east of Nigeria, as are the towns listed in the following lines, all then subject to the Yerima’s administration.
  3. The “I” is the singer, Palmata Banjiram, his female slave.