brosdee's view

me, you and everyone else....

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

There are so many things I love about the language, Yoruba. A sensible speech is not complete without the rich infusion of proverbs and analogies. 'Owe lesin oro, oro lesin owe,' my grandfather will say. You can only get the actual meaning of words spoken by a Yoruba man through the proverbs he uses. And if there is a question to be answered, Baba will say ‘toro ba sonu, owe la fin wa’.

Such is the rich background I have in the language. Although I grew up in urban Lagos, but my family was in constant touch with their Yoruba roots. My great grandfather, Alaafin Ladigbolu was the king of the Oyo Empire, it was he who signed the Peace Treaty with the British Government in July 23, 1888. That provided me with known family history that dates back to centuries. Even if I don’t want to know it, someone in Oja Akeesan (the major market in Oyo) will offer his service as a history teacher. Such a person will tell me how great my ancestors were and why I should always remember the son of whom I am….'ranti omo eni ti iwo nse.'

I use to think that phrase was from the Bible; because everyone seems o quote it. It is always handy anytime a child is leaving his parents’ house. The last time I spoke to one of my aunt on the phone, she went the same path again. Sometimes I try to figure out the actual meaning of the phrase. For I know the Yoruba language doesn’t really imply what it literally says. As my grandfather taught me, 'Amusan eru e wo, o ni oke len wo, e o wo isale,' it means you need to look into the depth of a matter before making a reasonable conclusion. So I try to find out who my parents are, and why I must always remember that I am their son.

I was born in a land where you are defined by your family history. Your resume is an accumulation of the deeds (sometimes wrongdoings) of your ancestor. People can deduce almost 20% of who you are (or supposed to be) from your name, ile la n wo kato somoloruko. Hence you live your life not only for yourself but for the generations after you. When my aunty warned me to remember the son whom I am, she is encoding a sermon in history, character and family ethics in the statement.