A Yoruba chant from Nigeria, consisting of a series of mock proverbs on the theme of vanity. Only by wearing ‘the appropriate dress’ can we recover a little of our dignity.

In blowing your nose, you must expose your teeth:
In stooping, one perforce exposes one’s seat:
In squatting, one appears like a knock-kneed person:
It is a dozing person whose mouth becomes awry:
In looking back, one twists one’s neck:
An elderly person applying antimony to the eye-lids projects her mouth,
turning it into a shelf,
She projects her mouth ludicrously, making it appear like a shelf.
There are many other remarks of this type
Which I’m unwilling now to chant.
I now come to my favourite sayings:
‘For a dance, the appropriate dress is an agbada, (1)
For a social visit, the appropriate dress is a caftan’. (2)
Pay me a visit!
Pay me a visit!
O money, pay me a visit!
I’m living in this town:
Pay me a visit!

from The Content and Form of Yoruba ljala (1966)
S.A. Babalola


  1. agbada: A flowing wide-sleeved robe.
  2. caftan: A front-buttoned coat, reaching to the ankles.