A Yoruba poem describing the results of a magical incantation performed to bring good fortune in life, collected by Ulli Beier.
I am waiting at the crossroads
I look to the right…
We were sent the following poem, a modern working on the Yoruba folklore tale of Olúrónbí, by Oluwatoba Opemip who is a student of Adekunle Ajasin University in Ondo state, Nigeria.
The tale of Olúrónbí concerns a beautiful woman who has been yearning for a child but has been unable to conceive. Following the tradition of her village, Olúrónbí ventures into the forest to petition the spirit of the Iroko tree, Olúwéré, to enable her to become pregnant. Most women who perform this ritual promised to make offerings of wines, food and sacrifices of sheep and goats to Olúwéré. Olúrónbí however, promises her first child to the spirit of the Iroko tree if he grants her request. Time passes and Olúrónbí gives birth to a beautiful female child which she named Béporé. But when the time came for her to fulfill her promise to her benefactor, Olúrónbí in decided to keep her daughter and tries to placate Olúwéré with various other offerings. Olúwéré warned and warned as his patience grew cold, turning to rage and anger until one day Béporé is taken away mysteriously.
Twice a union stroll a year
Even when these amulets of riches…
Three Yoruba songs, sung by women supporters of the two parties in the Federal elections of 1959 in western Nigeria. The main contenders were the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (N.C.N.C.), the ruling party whose symbol was the Palm Tree, and the Action Group, whose symbol was a cockerel.
The first song is by the Action Group women who claim the N.C.N.C. belongs, like its symbol, in the bush, along with lepers.
The palm tree grows in the far bush:
Nobody allows the leper to build his house in the town:
The palm tree grows in the far bush…
This is another Yoruba Ijala (hunting poem) that was first translated into English in Ulli Beier’s Black Orpheus magazine. Ulli Beier was a German-Jewish scholar who moved to Nigeria in 1950 to teach Phonetics at the University of Ibadan. In 1957 he founded the magazine Black Orpheus, the name inspired by “Orphée Noir”, an essay that he had read by the French intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre. Black Orpheus was the first African literary journal in English, publishing contemporary authors such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe as well as oral poetry from Nigeria. This Yoruba ìjalá poem appeared in issue 19 of Black Orpheus.
You cannot dispute the forest with a rat.
You cannot dispute the savannah with the buffalo…
The Yoruba believe in Atunwa, reincarnation within the family. Yoruba funeral songs such as Slowly the Muddy Pool Becomes a River and Where are You Now? incorporate the symbolism of loved ones returning in other forms. This poem is a grief-stricken Yoruba prayer, inviting a dead child to be born again.
Death catches the hunter with pain.
Eshu catches the herbalist in a sack…
A thrift-club, known in Yoruba as Esusu, is a voluntary society which helps its members to raise money. Every member pays a fixed sum of money regularly at a fixed time (say every fifth or ninth day). One of the subscribing members will take the total amount subscribed for his personal use. The next subscription will be taken by another member, continuing in rotation until every member has taken. As an early form of banking, it played a part in the rise of businesses owned by former slaves in the United States.
This ìjalá, or set of praises, is spoken by the chairmen to encourage and compliment the members.
All you persons of prestige here gathered together,
I greet the woodcock with its characteristic ‘mese’ cry…